ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays' 2022 season started off with a feel-good moment.
Prior to the teams' Opening Day game against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field, the Rays paid tribute to a Florida Highway Patrol trooper whose heroic actions last month could have saved dozens of lives.
Trooper Toni Schuck threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to a sold-out home opener accompanied by her husband, Pasco County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Scott Schuck. Last month, Schuck stopped an accused drunk driver during the Skyway 10K race.
The latest honor comes weeks after St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch presented Schuck with a key to the city, and Manatee County leaders declared March 22 as "Trooper Toni Schuck Day."
At around 8:45 a.m. on March 6, Kristen Watts, a 52-year-old from Sarasota, drove through the closed toll plaza on the Manatee County side of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Seeing the approaching car, FHP Sgt. Steve Gaskins radioed two troopers and others to have them intercept the driver and protect thousands of runners participating in the Skyway 10K on the bridge.
In the dashcam video, you see Schuck's patrol car drive in the middle of two lanes just before Watts' car smashes into the trooper, almost head-on. The sound of sirens and rustling debris can be heard shortly after.
Watts is charged with two counts of DUI with damage to property or person, two counts of reckless driving with damage to property or a person and DUI causing serious bodily injury. FHP reports later revealed that she had a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal drinking limit.
Schuck, 47, is a mother of two and a 26-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol. She said she plans to return to work once she recovers from her injuries.