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The behind-the-scenes story of the All-Star game's heartwarming surprise military homecoming

Cole Condiff, an Air Force staff sergeant deployed overseas, staged a surprise homecoming for his wife and daughter during the MLB All-Star game. (MLB)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Staff Sergeant Cole Condiff, a special tactics operator in the Air Force deployed overseas, got a proposition three weeks ago from his lieutenant and captain: How would he like to come home early and surprise his family at the MLB All-Star game in Washington D.C.?

The All-Star game sounded good, but what sounded even better was seeing his family.

“It’ll get me home four days before my daughter’s birthday,” he figured and said yes.

His little girl, Charley, turns 3 later this week and Daddy wasn’t going to be there until this opportunity came up through MLB’s relationship with Geico and its Seats for Service program.

Fast forward to the end of the first inning at Nationals Park. Rachael Condiff, Charley and Sgt. Condiff’s sister-in-law, Aubrey Lyon, were shown on the video board in the stadium. Then a video played of Sgt. Condiff, with a full beard, saying hello to his wife, wishing his daughter a happy birthday and apologizing for not being there.

After the video, the camera’s view got wider and Sgt. Condiff, now clean shaven, snuck up behind his family and surprised them. Rachael, who is almost six months pregnant with their second child, immediately burst into tears upon seeing her husband for the first time in six months. Rachael ran toward him, they embraced and then had a group hug with Charley. The stadium cheered. The surprise worked. The family was whole again.


“I was talking to my wife today,” Sgt. Condiff told Yahoo Sports about an hour before the surprise, deep inside Nationals Park. “I told her ‘Oh, I’m planning a mission.’ She has no idea.”

It was a mission — just a different type of mission. As part of Operation Enduring Freedom, his job is finding solutions for combat challenges his group of Special Operations Forces face. That means things like integrating air power into the battlefield. He’s highly trained and often gets deployed at a moment’s notice. That means he doesn’t always to get communicate with his family back home.

“We have some spotty wi-fi,” Sgt. Condiff said. “Depending on how well the wi-fi is working, I can text her and whatnot, but that’s about it.”

Near the National League clubhouse before the game began, Sgt. Condiff was greeted by Sean Doolittle, a Washington Nationals relief pitcher who is on the NL squad. Doolittle comes from a military family and is active in supporting veterans causes like Operation Finally Home and Swords to Plowshares —  he’s particularly passionate about helping veterans who have “bad papers.”

“Are you nervous?” Doolittle asked Sgt. Condiff.

“A little bit of both,” Sgt. Condiff said. “I wasn’t nervous at first, but as it’s gotten closer …

“My family thinks I’m still over there.”

He figured this was a surprise they’d love — and that they deserved.

“My wife does a lot back home,” Sgt. Condiff said. “She’s taking care of my daughter, getting ready to have another kid. All that by herself is phenomenal … Without my family everything would be so much harder.”

Judging by Rachael and Charley’s reaction when the surprise unfolded, Sgt. Cole Condiff’s secret All-Star game “mission” was a resounding success.

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Mike Oz is a writer at Yahoo Sports. Contact him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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