SOUTH BEND, Ind.--- An Army lieutenant and father of four achieved a lifelong dream Saturday night, throwing the first pitch at the South Bend Cubs game. 1st Lt. Neal Dillon learned about the surprise earlier in the day.
"I was planning on going to a company picnic. I was actually going to be introduced to some of my mom's co-workers who had done some things for me in the past," said Dillon, whose wife, Adrienne, is expecting their fifth child in February.
Instead, the South Bend Cubs and South Bend Orthopaedics teamed up to give Dillon an early Father's Day gift.
"Obviously, with it being Father's Day -- I'm a father. It means a lot, and this is a gentleman who's sacrificed a lot for all of us to enjoy baseball," said Joe Hart, president of the South Bend Cubs.
Dillon said he grew up watching Cubs legends Ryne Sandberg and Greg Maddux.
"My husband has such a joy for baseball, so to see him do something he has such a passion for on an everyday basis -- it makes us happy for him," said Adrienne Dillon.
Though this Father's Day is more bittersweet than ones in the past.
"Next year, he won't be here. We'll have another child, so we're making the most of the one we have before he's gone," Adrienne said.
In July, Lt. Dillon will deploy to the Middle East for nearly a year. Dillon said he has a habit of not thinking about the long time away from his wife, kids, and family.
"It actually won't hit me until I get over there, when I don't see their faces every day," he said.
The military life isn't a walk in the park, either. "Any Army wife would tell you it's not easy," Adrienne added, "I wouldn't trade the life for anything because I get to be by his side."
That included standing some yards away from Neal's time on the mound.
"This is something he's not going to forget when we're apart. He's going to have this [memory] with him, and we're going to have this [memory] to play over and over again," she said.
If the Dillons have a baby boy in February, they plan to name him Maddux after former Cub and Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux.