When 9-year-old Alayna Adams threw the first pitch at the Tampa Bay Rays game on Thursday night, she had no idea her father, deployed in the army, was the one catching the ball.
Earlier in the day, Alayna thought she was in trouble when she and her mother had to meet with the principal of her school, Westlake Christian School, according to the Tampa Bay Times. They were then told they had been chosen from a group of military families to throw the ceremonial first pitch at the Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Socks game at Tropicana Field on Thursday night.
Neither mother nor daughter knew that the man behind the catcher's mask was Army Lieutenant Colonel Will Adams, who has been stationed in Afghanistan for most of the past two years. They thought he was getting home next Monday, but Will actually arrived home Wednesday and stayed at a hotel to keep the secret devised by the United Service Organizations and the Rays, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Before Alayna threw the ball, a prerecorded video of Will offering good luck played on the Jumbotron. "Stay focused, throw the ball and I love you," the army dad told his daughter, notes Tampa's WTSP.
After the pitch, the man dressed in Rays gear at home plate lifted up his mask. That is when Alayna saw he wasn't an MLB player but her dad, and she ran into his arms.
The surprise made for a super sweet reunion between father and daughter, and footage of the touching moment later went viral online.
When asked what she first thought when she saw her dad, Alayna told WTSP, "I don't really know. I thought I was dreaming."