Girl at Rays game gets big surprise: Dad home from Afghanistan
Alayna Adams, 9, rushes towards her father, Lt. Col. Wililam Adams, whom was disguised as a Tampa Bay Rays catcher for Alayna's ceremonial first pitch. JASON BEHNKEN / STAFF
Published: May 16, 2013
Updated: May 17, 2013 at 11:45 AM
Alayna Adams threw out the first pitch at Thursday's Tampa Bay Rays game, and then she was thrown for a loop.
The 9-year-old from Dunedin tossed out the ball with her mother, Dana Adams, by her side. It was a two-bouncer that landed just in front of the masked catcher. Then she approached the catcher, who took off his mask to reveal his identity: her father, Army Lt. Col. William Adams, fresh from Afghanistan after a year. Alana, a third-grader at Westlake Christian School, said "for a second that it was a dream." The Tropicana Field crowd got to its feet as the family was reunited. Adams, 40, was expected to return home Monday, but the Rays and United Services Organization set up the reunion before the game against the Boston Red Sox. He arrived in the area Wednesday and stayed in a hotel to not spoil the surprise. The early reunion also caught his wife off guard. "I'm still in complete shock," she told Todd Kalas of Sun Sports.
Before the ceremonial pitch, a taped greeting from Adams was played on the stadium videoboard. “Alayna, he said, "when you walk out there. Remember, take a deep breath, focus and have fun, baby. Daddy loves you.” Afterward, he expressed his appreciation to the Rays and USO. "I can't believe I'm finally back with the girls," he told Kalas of Sun Sports. "There are so many members still overseas."