A U.S. Air Force service member home from a six-month deployment overseas surprised his two children by pretending to be a catcher at a minor league baseball game.
Tech. Sgt, Lance Daigle donned a catcher’s uniform and got in position to catch the ceremonial opening pitch at a Carolina Mudcats game last week in Zebulon, North Carolina.
On the other side of the pitcher's mound were two of Daigle’s two children, Cameron, 11, and Karley, 13. The siblings walked onto the mound believing they won the right to pitch through a VIP experience raffle.
Daigle, who is known in the family for filling out online surveys and entering competitions, got a text message from Karley about winning the raffle while he was in Kuwait.
“I was getting ready to go to bed and she texted me to call her and said, ‘We got this thing but I don’t think it’s real,’” Daigle said of Karley, who opened a notification about the winning prize on April Fool’s Day. “I said, ‘Yeah, I filled that out.’”
In reality, Daigle had emailed the Carolina Mudcats, a team located about an honor from the Daigle family’s home, about surprising his kids after getting the idea from his wife, Emily.
“This could be my last deployment before I retire so she and one of her friends started to think about a surprise,” said Daigle, a 19-year Air Force veteran. “They thought of the Mudcats because we’ve been to games and they’re big supporters of the military.”
The Mudcats then took over organizing the surprise, including mailing the VIP experience “winning tickets” and getting a uniform for Daigle to wear.
“And then we just hoped for the best from there because with the military sometimes things happen,” Daigle said. “But I made it back on the day I needed to.”
The surprise reunion was so emotional that inside the stadium it was "hard to see a dry eye," according to a Mudcats spokeswoman.
"Both teams were paying attention and that’s not something that normally happens," said Becca Holtgreive, the team's director of community relations. "It was special."
Daigle’s children are enjoying the attention their surprise received, and the extra time with their dad back home.
Daigle said he is home for the near future, with no future deployments planned.