HENDERSONVILLE, TN (WSMV) - A 15-year-old girl was given a major surprise when her father arrived back from his deployment in Afghanistan and walked out to greet her just before her softball game.

“Show up. Do your best.”

Those are five words 15-year-old Maria Simpson knows well. Those five words come from a lifetime of advice from her dad.

"You have to be confident, not cocky," said Maria, sharing other advice from her dad. "You have to be certain in your abilities. Leave your heart out on the field every single game."

Her dad started that training with Maria early.

"Five-years-old!" Maria laughed. "He's really one of the reasons I'm here today. My parents, both of them, have high expectations of me."

Now Maria's a shortstop with the Michigan Batbusters. They were at Hendersonville's Drakes Creek Park for the Premiere Girls Fastpitch Southeastern Championship.

Maria's dad hasn't been able to be in the stands for many games this season for a very important reason.

"He has been deployed in Afghanistan," she said. "It's tough. A lot of prayers. A lot of thinking about him. I'm also very proud of him."

Tuesday came the special moment. Maria thought her dad was coming home from his deployment to Afghanistan in August.

Instead, Lt. Col. Erik Simpson walked out onto the field. A video by Visit Sumner TN shows the two embrace.

"You can't describe how great of a feeling it is to see your family," said Lt. Col. Simpson of Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

Before playing in the tournament Wednesday, Maria warmed up with her dad, the two pitching a ball back and forth on the field.

"One thing happens on deployment, it makes you appreciate everything you've got back home," said Lt. Col. Simpson. "We are truly blessed as Americans back here."

"Being able to look back in the crowd and see a familiar face, it's really awesome," said Maria.

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Forrest Sanders is an award-winning reporter, videographer and editor at News4.

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