Father's return knocks it out of the park

In a July 3, 2015 photo provided by the Dowell family, Brayden Dowell, right, runs to his father Sgt. Adam Dowell’s waiting arms during a surprise homecoming at a Tennessee Smokies game in Kodak, Tenn. Dowell had just returned home from a 10-month deployment. (Lisa Dowell via AP)

KODAK, Tenn. (AP) - This recent Independence Day weekend is one that will be hard to top for Sweetwater resident, Sgt. Adam Dowell, and his family.

Dowell, a 2007 graduate of Sweetwater High School, has been a member of the United States Army for nearly eight years. At 26 years old, he has been deployed multiple times, including a stint in Iraq and most recently, a 10-month stay in Kuwait and Jordan with the 252nd Military Police Company.

Dowell arrived back stateside on June 19 at Fort Bliss, Texas, and returned home to Tennessee in early July.

On July 3, Dowell awaited on a balcony at Smokies Stadium in Kodak to surprise his son - 5-year-old Brayden.

"We had been thinking of ideas on what we could do that would be special for both of our kids," said Dowell's wife, Lisa Vanegeren Dowell, also a Sweetwater High School graduate. "Adam's coworker's wife, Melissa, said she could probably talk to someone with the Smokies and it grew from there. They were more than glad to help and be a part of it."

That Friday night, the Tennessee Smokies, the Double-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, squared off against the Montgomery Biscuits and Lisa took Brayden to see some baseball, a favorite past time he shares with his father.

In the middle of the first inning, as Sgt. Dowell waited, hidden, Brayden was "randomly" asked to participate in what he believed to be a dance off competition. Lisa walked with him to the field, where Brayden was then blindfolded for the "competition."

Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA" began to play and Brayden began to dance around. Little did he know, the blindfold was hiding a bigger surprise.

When the blindfold was removed, Brayden turned around and saw his father standing there.

"Before they took his blindfold off, I just wanted to grab him and hug him," said Sgt. Dowell. "I was just so excited and happy. As soon as he saw me, he yelled, 'Daddy!' and ran to me. We shared a really big hug."

The emotional reunion brought the stadium crowd to its feet, all applauding and cheering as Sgt. Dowell and Brayden were reunited.

The Smokies shared a video from the special moment on their social media pages and it quickly went viral, even getting picked up by ESPN.

Sgt. Dowell and his wife also made sure their daughter, Emma, who will be 2 soon, got a surprise, too, wrapping him in a giant box and letting her unwrap the present to find him inside.

"We didn't want a lot of commotion with her surprise," said Lisa.

"We didn't really do a surprise the last time I came back home," added Sgt. Dowell. "We just had Brayden then and he was still little. Doing surprises for them made it even more special."

Now that he's back home in Monroe County, Sgt. Dowell said he plans on spending a whole lot of time with his family.

"I hate that I've had to watch them grow up in pictures and videos," he said. "I've missed so much. I'm just going to slow down for a bit and enjoy this time. And, I don't have to tell my wife, 'Sweet dreams and kisses,' anymore. I can just tell her sweet dreams."

With football season quickly approaching, Sgt. Dowell is also looking forward to Little League games.

"I missed all of that last year," he said. "I'm hoping to be out there more with Brayden this year and make more memories. But, seeing the joy and excitement in his face when he turned around and saw me at the Smokies game...that's something I will never forget."

The video of Sgt. Dowell and Brayden's reunion is available for viewing online through the Tennessee Smokies' Twitter or Facebook pages.