Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Father returns from Afghanistan to surprise daughter at the Rays game

ST. PETERSBURG

Alayna Adams was living a dream as she prepared to throw out the first pitch Thursday night before thousands of Tampa Bay Rays fans at Tropicana Field.

Her father, a lieutenant colonel stationed in Afghanistan for most of the past two years, appeared on the stadium video screen. He said hello and told his daughter he would see her soon.

The 9-year-old Dunedin girl launched the ball and watched it bounce across the turf toward home plate.

A man wearing a Rays uniform and a catcher's mask and pads squatted behind the plate. As the ball rolled toward him, he stepped forward and scooped the ball in his glove.

Alayna thought there was something odd about the way he caught the ball. It wasn't quite how a professional ballplayer would do it.

The man at the plate stood and lifted his mask. It was her father, Lt. Col. Will Adams.

She sprinted to him. He swept her into his arms.

• • •

Hours earlier, Alayna thought she was in trouble. Her mother told her they had to leave early to meet with the principal of Westlake Christian School, where Alayna is in third grade.

Neither of them knew that the meeting was part of a well-orchestrated and secretive plan — a collaborative effort between the United Service Organizations and the Rays.

Later, they were told that they had been selected from among a number of military family members to throw the first pitch at Thursday night's game. And before the ball was tossed, they and the rest of the crowd watched a short video greeting from Lt. Col. Adams. He was due to come home Monday. He wished them well and said he would see them soon.

He didn't say just how soon.

Adams, 40, had arrived Wednesday at MacDill Air Force Base. Wednesday night he stayed in a hotel room, alone, awaiting the next day's surprise.

"That was the hardest part," he said later. "Being back home and not being able to see them."

• • •

From behind the catcher's mask, Adams eyed his little girl. She stood a little taller than she had when he last saw her, the day before Valentine's Day.

After he took off his mask and Alayna jumped into his arms, he held her tight for a full 30 seconds.

Dana Adams soon joined them. Usually not one to get emotional, she cried.

And the crowd roared.

Father returns from Afghanistan to surprise daughter at the Rays game 05/16/13 [Last modified: Friday, May 17, 2013 10:27am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Senate Obamacare effort dies; Rubio in favor of repeal, Nelson against

    Blogs

    WASHINGTON - The Senate Republican effort to Obamacare failed early Friday, with John McCain providing a decisive vote.

    The Senate vote
  2. Senate ponders health care bill it doesn't want to be law

    National

    Buoyed by a signal from House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a pared-down health care bill late Thursday that he hoped would keep alive Republican ambitions to repeal Obamacare.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., left, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., expressed concerns about passing the “skinny repeal” of Obamacare without assurances of further negotiations.
  3. Arrest made in shooting death of 19-year-old found in lot

    News

    A 20-year-old Tampa man was arrested Thursday night for the shooting death of a 19-year-old whose body was discovered in a vacant lot on Tuesday.

  4. Rays fall to Yankees in 11 on Brett Gardner homer (w/ video)

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — The front office did its part Thursday, making two trades to bolster the roster in a push for the playoffs. But the Rays didn't follow up in a frustrating 6-5 11-inning loss to the Yankees.

    Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge stands on the mound and can only watch as the Yankees’ Brett Gardner starts to circle the bases after his walkoff home run leading off the 11th inning.
  5. Believe it! Rays are buyers, trade for reliever Dan Jennings and 1B/DH Lucas Duda

    The Heater

    NEW YORK — Dan Jennings' ability to render lefty hitters useless with a sinker that gets beaten into the ground and Lucas Duda's power to blast baseballs off and over outfield walls should make the Rays better.

    Lucas Duda