Surprise reunion: All eyes on two Cardinals fans in San Diego

Staff Sgt. Josh Smith sits with his wife, Cassie, at Petco Park -- three nights before she was expecting him.

It never gets old. When a member of the U.S. military surprises a family member with an unexpected appearance after a long deployment, the overwhelming emotions you see on-screen warm the heart again and again.

Such was the case Tuesday night when the Cardinals played the Padres in San Diego. And though the game wasn’t at Busch Stadium, it was all about two Cardinals fans.

Marine Staff Sgt. Josh Smith, who is from south St. Louis and graduated from Cleveland NJROTC High School, was returning from a one-year deployment in Korea. It was his last deployment before he retires from the Marines. He was due home on Aug. 1 — or so his wife, Cassie, thought.

Smith found out he would be returning July 29 instead. And when he noticed on his Cardinals schedule that his beloved team would be playing at San Diego that night, he developed a plan.

Cassie still lived and worked as a physical therapist in San Diego, where Smith had been stationed since 2009. Cassie, also a St. Louisan (Where’d you go to high school? Rockwood Summit), was a Cardinals fan, too, and would naturally be interested in catching a game.

Smith asked Cassie’s college friends to take her to the ballgame Tuesday night. And he asked the Padres if they could help set up a surprise.

"I would like to make my last homecoming a special one for my wife to remember and to let her know that I am home and it is our time to be together now," he wrote in an email to the Padres.

With the stadium speakers announcing his arrival in the middle of the second inning, he walked toward his shocked wife, embraced her and sat down in the empty seat beside her.

Cassie was wearing a white Cardinals jersey, but that didn’t matter. The Petco Park crowd stood and cheered.