OAKLAND -- First, Allie Pearce threw a two-hop strike. Then she cut loose with a bawl.
Pearce, an Antioch resident celebrating her 16th birthday, delivered a ceremonial first pitch before Friday night's A's-Giants game. Afterward, as her live interview with in-stadium host Kara Tsuboi was shown on the O.co Coliseum video boards, A's players Brandon Inge, Jonny Gomes and Brian Fuentes walked toward her to present an A's jersey.
Then came the biggest present of all.
The players parted and from behind them strode Army Spc. Steve Pearce, Allie's father, who had been stationed in Afghanistan and wasn't expected back from his deployment until October.
Allie, who before her pitch became emotional when her father wished her a happy birthday via the video board, welled up again as she gave him a big, long hug.
Who says there's no crying in baseball?
"First I saw him up there and started crying," she said, "and then I started crying again because I saw him again."
The father-daughter reunion drew heartfelt applause from the large crowd. The Pearces remained on the field for the national anthem, with Scott, dressed in camouflage gear, giving a salute. Then it was off to enjoy the game.
Scott Pearce, 40, who came home on leave, planned the surprise for six months.
"I knew my daughter was turning 16," he said, "and I saw where the teams were playing, and the Bay Bridge Series was the best
The A's players were more than happy to participate in the ruse.
"Those soldiers who surprise the kids, that gets me," Gomes said. "So to have the opportunity to watch it firsthand is pretty cool."
"I struggle being away from my family, my kids, for a week or 10 days," Fuentes said. "To know these guys are gone for a year, sometimes longer, away from their families, it's hard to fathom. I'm just happy to see them enjoying it."
"I was so surprised," Allie Pearce said. "It was the best day ever. The best gift for my 16th birthday party."
Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him at Twitter.com/garyscribe.