RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - As the Richmond Flying Squirrels took the field Saturday, Air Force Tech Sgt. Rob Champine waited in the bunker of the Diamond, preparing to stop play and stun the crowd.
"This is so worth it," Sgt. Champine said in an interview Saturday. "Being able to finally, tangibly touch my family again. I haven't been able to do that since October."
Champine flew across seven time zones to reunite with his family, traveling from Kuwait to Richmond. His wife of nine years, son and daughter expected him to be home in 11 days, ending the fourth deployment of his military career.
Champine arranged to be hidden in a giant red box, one that would be brought out to the field with two smaller boxes.
His son, Justin, just over four feet tall, followed a team escort out to the first baseline. The plan: to open each box, eventually opening the largest one with his father inside.
"How about we check what's in the red box," echoed the voice of the Squirrels' announcer.
And with that, the door opened, with gasps across the aisles and cheers of joy from the crowd. Champine could be seen in full uniform inside the opened box, wrapping his son in his arms.
"They had no idea, they still thought I was over there," Champine said.
His wife, Merly, gave an impromptu press conference moments after the moment unfolded.
"Oh my God, my first expression and action was to just run to that box," the mother of two said. "I just cannot believe it."
Champine is stationed at Ft. Lee, with his family living in Chester. The surprise return months in the making amounted to a team effort, with the Diamond for the Champines, now truly, a Field of Dreams.
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