Father and daughter reunite prior to game

Published 4:31 pm Thursday, April 5, 2018

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The scoreboard usually defines a game, but for Autumn Edwards that was not the case against Jemison on April 3.

The game will always hold a special place in Edwards’ memory after she was surprised on the field prior to the game by her father, Sgt. Jay Hager, who returned home after a 12-month deployment overseas.

“It’s nice to be home,” Hager said. “It’s a blessing.”

Hager was a member of the Alabama National Guard’s 208th Chemical Company and spent time in Iraq, Syria and Kuwait.

He was introduced onto the field shortly after the national anthem finished playing.

“It’s just refreshing,” Hager said. “Everything when you come back just seems so different.”

Having not seen each other in just over a year, the two shared a lengthy embrace along the third base line as tears came to Edwards’ eyes.

“I turned around, and I was just proud that he was able to make it home,” Edwards said.

According to Edwards, she had received word that her father was coming home but not for another couple of months.

“They didn’t tell me,” Edwards said.

Edwards’ family kept the reveal a secret along with the help of Thorsby head coach Leighsa Robinson.

Being away from a parent for an extended length of time was far from ideal for Edwards, but it was something that she learned to deal with over time.

“It’s really hard because that’s your dad,” Edwards said. “You know that when they go over there they may not come back. You just have to be prepared for everything.”

Edwards was able to keep in touch with her dad through iMessage and Facebook. She could only talk to her dad when he had the signal strength to do so.

“You wonder if they [children] forget about you and what they’re doing,” Hager said. “I went months without being able to talk to her, and that was the hardest thing to do.”

Following the pregame emotions Edwards went out and played the game with her teammates as her dad watched on.

“I was trying really hard for him out there,” Edwards said.