ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — The Tampa Bay Rays are honoring the life and legacy of WFLA’s late Chief Photojournalist Paul Lamison with a tribute pitch Wednesday night.
In February 2022, the Rays surprised Paul on-air by letting him know he would be throwing out the first pitch that June.
“We knew we wanted to do something special for Paul,” said David Egles, Executive Director of the Rays Foundation. “He was a great example of what the Rays are and always shared his love for the game and the team.”
Paul had to wait a few months before his big moment, but he took full advantage of that time by practicing.
“He bought a net from Amazon, I saw it in the back and was like what the heck is that and how much was it,” said Nerissa Lamison, Paul’s wife.
Nerissa said Paul’s dream was to be a professional baseball player. Paul would often joke about getting signed by the Rays, especially after throwing the first pitch.
On June 29, 2022, Paul made a great pitch to his favorite player, Brett Phillips.
“That was the coolest thing ever, that was the coolest thing ever,” Paul said in an interview after throwing the first pitch.
However, 35 days after that moment, Paul passed from a sudden heart attack.
“That day was the last family day that we had together, so I’m glad we ended it with the Rays because the rays were so special to him,” Nerissa said. “For him to be on that mound, with the crowd screaming and looking at him and throwing that first pitch, he lived his dream.”
It’s a dream his youngest daughter, Ava, is now continuing.
“I’m just excited to be his legacy,” Ava said.
On Wednesday, Ava will throw out the first pitch in honor of her dad. She’ll be surrounded by her two sisters and mom.
“She’s the youngest, she’s Paul’s legacy, she’s Paul’s baby and she practiced with Paul,” Nerissa said.
Last year, Ava practiced throws and got coached by her dad as he got ready for his moment. Now, Ava is taking those lessons and practicing with her mom and uncles as she gets ready to make her dad proud.
“I’ve learned that he’s protecting me, he’s watching me,” Ava said. “I know when I throw the first pitch he’ll be like, ‘Yeah! Go Ava!'”
The Rays play the Toronto Blue Jays at 6:40 p.m. on Wednesday.