BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Somerset Patriots helped Sgt. Alfredo Castro spring a surprise homecoming on his wife and two young sons after an 11-month deployment in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Castro, a 17-year veteran of the United States Army, greeted his wife and sons Alfredo,11 and Sebastian, 7 along the first base line prior to the start of the Saturday, Sept. 10 game.
“I felt a lot of nervousness and anxiety. I was working really hard to get the kids and my wife to the game. I was just hoping everything went off without a flaw and it all went smoothly,” said Sgt. Castro.
Alfredo and Sebastian were scheduled to throw out ceremonial first pitches before the game with Heidi looking on from the third base line with a camera in hand to capture their performance. As the boys’ turns came up, Somerset Patriots public address announcer Paul Spychala stopped the pre-game ceremonies to announce that a late arriving guest needed to come in to throw out a first pitch.
As his name was announced and the family saw Castro emerge from the first base tunnel behind Somerset Patriots’ mascots Sparkee and Slider, Heidi, Alfredo, and Sebastian ran to greet him.
“I was flushed with all kinds of emotion. You never know what to expect with them being so young and being in a situation like that,” Castro said. “They kind of reacted the way I expected them to.”
Castro met his wife when both were serving in the same Army unit in 2000. He said the two did not hit it off right away. Castro is a “morning person,” Heidi was the complete opposite. The family lives in Vernon, NJ.
“We just cried and were in such disbelief. I’m still in disbelief. Alfredo keeps coming by and pinching me because it feels like a dream to us,” said Heidi of the surprise reunion.
After about three months of careful planning to surprise his family, the Castro family reunion brought the ballpark crowd to their feet.
“You see the videos of soldiers coming home all the time and this was something I always wanted to do. It was a dream come true,” Castro added.
After all the emotion, Alfredo and Sebastian were able to still take the mound and deliver strikes with their first pitches.
“My proudest moment was actually when they went ahead with the first pitches and both threw strikes. That was my favorite part,” Castro said.