Alayna Adams, a 9-year-old from Dunedin, Florida, thought she was taking the mound at Tropicana Field Thursday night to throw out the first pitch as part of a USO program honoring military families.
Alayna and the crowd first watched a video message from her father, Lt. Col. Will Adams, on the video screen. He was due to come home Monday after a year in Afghanistan. He wished his daughter and family well and said he would see them soon.
After the video, Alayna tossed the baseball to a man wearing a Rays uniform, including a catcher's mask and pads, behind the plate. When the man took off the mask, he revealed himself to be her father. She ran into his arms to the roar of the crowd before the Rays and Red Sox took the field.
The video below has since gone viral.
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.