|Tampa Bay Rays - June 24, 2010
June 25, 2010 – From Tampa, Florida
Final score: Diamondbacks defeat the Rays 1- 0
STRIKE! I threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Tampa Bay Rays game last night at Tropicana Field. My catcher
was Tom Foley, third base coach for the Rays.
When I climbed onto the mound to get set I started to lose my balance. So on the TV replay I will likely look like I’m failing
a DUI test. But once I got set I let it rip… so of course it was all a blur. But I do remember seeing the ball sail across the
plate and hit the dirt just in front of my catcher. So the evening got off to a great start.
Unfortunately for the Rays, my stellar performance wasn’t enough to jump start the team. Not only did they lose 1-0 to the
D-backs… but they were the victim of a “no hitter” by Edwin Johnson, starting pitcher for the D-backs. Ironically,
Johnson was recently traded to the D-backs by the Rays.
My friend Joe, who lives in Sarasota, came to the game with his two sons and a colleague. They drove nearly an hour
each way to come to the game – the first time this season – to watch my pitch. I told them I felt bad they made the trip just
to see the home team lose in such a dramatic fashion. But as Joe put it, “Yeah, they lost. But how often do you get to see
a no-hitter?” Good point!
I plan to call the D-backs next week and tell them that I was their lucky charm, and they should invite me to pitch in
Everyone at the Rays organization was great to work with. I arrived at the stadium (thanks for the rides, Joe) 2 hours
before game time. I joined the guys for dinner and then reported to the team an hour before the game. I was escorted to
the playing field where I met Jamie, senior entertainment coordinator, the person who agreed to let me bring the PFA tour
to Tampa. As a souvenir of my experience she gave me a MLB ball and a Rays jersey. Sweet!
I was delighted to find the team played inside a dome stadium so I didn’t have to sweat out the Florida heat and humidity –
don’t miss it at all! 72-degrees is a great way to play. I also got my first experience walking barefoot on Astroturf. I tried to
pluck out a few blades of the fake grass as a keepsake but they were tough as nails.
The team gave me a seat directly behind home plate for the game - best view in the whole stadium. I was surrounded by
diehard fans with season tickets and scouts from other MLB clubs who were furiously taking notes after every pitch. I
talked to one of the fans who held season tickets in the same section and she said the scouts are there every game with
stopwatch in hand.
I got back to the hotel around 10:30 p.m. but was up until 2:00 a.m. adding photos to the website… and packing up.
|Tampa Tribune - June 26, 2010
June 25, 2010 – From Miami, Florida
The alarm clocked buzzed at 6:30 a.m. (ugh!) and I was at the airport by 8:00 a.m. While going through security I heard my phone (in my bag) ring…
but couldn’t answer it. When I got to the gate I dug it out and listened to voicemail. It was my cousin Jeff, from New Jersey (but not the Jersey
Shore). Unbeknownst to me, he and his wife were in Clearwater, Florida, just a short distance from Tampa. He was reading the Tampa newspaper,
turned to the sports section, and saw my picture! It was a picture (by the Associated Press) of the ball leaving my foot with the caption “Tom Willis
throws out the ceremonial first pitch before Friday night’s game. Willis, who was born without arms, has learned to use his feet to do everything in
his life from writing, to driving a car, to pitching. He is taking his “Pitch to Awareness” tour to ballparks across the country.” I didn’t talk to any
reporters and this is language (with the exception of the error “Pitch TO Awareness”) that comes straight from my press release. Looks like all the
releases I sent out are actually being looked at!
2:00 p.m. I’m now in Miami… all set for the Marlins game tomorrow. Game starts at 1:00 p.m. and there is no dome. Temps will likely be in the 90s
with similar humidity. Until then I’m hiding out in my air-conditioned hotel room!
I got a great idea from one of my shuttle drivers today. Answer these 2 questions:
1) Are you a morning person? and 2) What time of day were you born?
His theory is that people who were born before noon are morning persons and people born after noon are night persons. I’ve asked several people
today and it seems to hold true. Me? I was born around 5:00 p.m. and, if you haven’t guessed by now, I can’t stand the world until after 10:00 a.m.
So PFA pitch #1 for 2010 is in the record books.
Thanks for your interest in my efforts. I’ll do my best to keep you up to date.