JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - There were a lot of softball games all over Region 8 Thursday night. Each one was full of memorable moments.
However, there was only one where the play of the game didn't wind up on a score sheet.
For 11-year-old Karleigh, the softball field is more than just a place to play.
The Southside Softball Complex has become a place of solace. A place that fills the void while her dad, Sgt. Mike Clark is on deployment.
For nine months, Sgt. Clark has been overseas. He's served our country in Iraq and Kuwait. For the Clark family though, this isn't the first time they've been without dad.
"He deployed in 2009 and 2010," Karleigh's mom, Jamie said. At the time, Karleigh was just four years old.
Jamie said during that deployment, Sgt. Clark's biggest fear wasn't death or injury. His fear was that Karleigh, the youngest of the Clark's four children, wouldn't remember him.
"When he got home from leave, they got two week leave, that fear set into reality," Jamie said. "He went to her school, tried to surprise her and she just looked at him like he was a stranger. It broke his heart."
When Sgt. Clark was deployed this time, Karleigh knew her dad was coming home just not exactly when it would happen.
"He was supposed to come in on the 17th and then it got pushed back to the 20th and it got bumped back til today and she was like 'He's never coming home!'" Jamie said.
But he was. And much sooner than Karleigh thought.
As Karleigh's team, NEA Crush 03, came in to bat after the first inning, Sgt. Clark made his way in.
Family, friends, coaches and even the umpires were in on the surprise. The umps, ready to stop the game as soon as Sgt. Clark stepped onto the field.
A moment, nine months in the making, timed perfectly.
While Karleigh was up to bat, Sgt. Clark snuck in through the opposing team's dugout.
This time, it didn't take Karleigh any time at all to not only remember her dad, but come running into his arms.
As father and daughter were reunited, there wasn't a dry eye in the stands.
For Karleigh, it's a moment she'll remember forever.
"It'll be a lifetime memory for her," Jamie said. "She'll be able to cherish it."
As for Sgt. Clark, he's just happy to be back home in the stands, watching his little girl play softball.