Dave Wills Rays Hall of Fame Screen grab: MLB.com

While they may be one of MLB’s youngest teams, the Tampa Bay Rays have packed plenty of history into their first 26 seasons in existence.

That includes the legacy of their longtime radio broadcaster, Dave Wills, who the Rays honored on Sunday by inducting him into their Hall of Fame.

The Rays’ tribute to Wills comes on year after his sudden death during spring training at the age of 58. He is the fourth inductee into the Rays’ Hall of Fame, joining Don Zimmer, Wade Boggs, and Carl Crawford, with Fred McGriff set to be inducted later this year.

To celebrate their longtime broadcaster, the Rays gave away Wills-themed tropical shirts that featured a “Dave” microphone patch to the first 12,000 fans in attendance and made donations to the Buddy Baseball charity and the Homeless Empowerment Program. The team honored Wills with a pregame ceremony featuring his family, principal owner Stuart Sternberg and his longtime radio partner, Andy Freed.

“While many tears have been shed, and we all miss him so dearly, I’d like to say that on this afternoon, we are not here to mourn the loss,” Freed at the start of the ceremony, according to MLB.com’s Adam Berry. “We are here today to celebrate, to honor and, most importantly, to enjoy reliving his 18 years in the Rays’ broadcast booth.

“Today, in fact, I can feel Dave’s presence more strongly than ever. Because just as he lived his life, we are here today to have a good time — a great time. That’s what Dave Wills was all about.”

A native of Chicago, Wills spent time calling games for the Class-A Kane County Cougars (1991-1995) and hosted Chicago White Sox pre and postgame shows (1997-2004), in addition to doing work for Notre Dame football and Illinois basketball before becoming the radio voice of the Rays in 2005. His death came months after he was hospitalized for the final two weeks of the 2022 regular season after being diagnosed with a heart condition known as supraventricular tachycardis, before returning to call the Rays’ appearance in the American League Wild Card Series.


About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.