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Dave Wills Honored in Hall of Fame Induction for Bringing Joy to Baseball and Life

ST. PETERSBURG — The atmosphere at Tropicana Field on Sunday was not one that many desired to experience.

Looking ahead five, ten, or even fifteen years, the retirement of Dave Wills, after a lengthy tenure in the Rays radio booth, would have naturally led to his induction into the team’s Hall of Fame, serving as a fitting conclusion to his illustrious career.

However, Wills’ unexpected passing at the age of 58 in March 2023 prompted the Rays to seek a way to honor him while his memory was still fresh. Consequently, plans were put in place to induct him as the fourth member of the team’s Hall of Fame, which had been inaugurated just the previous year.

At the onset of the induction ceremony on Sunday, Andy Freed, Wills’ longtime radio partner and close friend, emphasized that the afternoon was not meant for mourning but for celebration.

During the ceremony, Freed expressed, “We are here today to celebrate, to honor, and most importantly, to enjoy reminiscing about his 18 years in the Rays broadcast booth.”

The event was a heartfelt occasion, with approximately 100 of Wills’ relatives and dear friends in attendance, some of whom had traveled from his hometown of Chicago and other places.

Various speakers, including Freed, principal owner Stuart Sternberg, Wills’ wife Liz, and daughter Michelle, shared touching stories and anecdotes from his career, highlighting his joy in the limelight.

Reflecting on how Wills would have received the honor, his son Alex Griff remarked, “Every part of it, every moment, he would have just loved it. He would have taken it all in, and you definitely would have known just how much he loved the day.”

To commemorate the event, fans were given special Dave Wills shirts, and the Rays organized several tributes, including donations to charities close to Wills’ heart and special first pitches thrown by his children.

The Rays also distributed yellow shirts to fans, reminiscent of Wills’ style, and launched a scholarship fund in his name to support aspiring broadcasters from Pinellas County.

Throughout the ceremony, heartfelt stories were shared about Wills’ passion for the Rays and the Tampa Bay area, emphasizing his infectious enthusiasm for life and baseball.

In conclusion, Michelle expressed gratitude to the Rays for ensuring that her father’s legacy endures, affirming that he was not only a Hall of Famer in baseball but in all aspects of life.

Sternberg encapsulated Wills’ impact by stating, “He made baseball fun, he made life fun. And he made sure we all had fun along with him.”