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'Absolute gut punch': Tampa Bay area mourns passing of Dave Wills, longtime Rays announcer

"He was the voice of the Rays. It's almost like you knew him as part of your family," one fan said.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Sunday's game against the Baltimore Orioles wasn't the same without Dave Wills.

The longtime Tampa Bay Rays radio announcer died at the age of 58 Sunday morning, the team announced.

Sunday's radio broadcast was canceled and a moment of silence was held in his honor.

As fans left Tropicana Field, they reminisced over memories of listening to his voice. His passion, energy, sense of humor and expertise shined through every inning over the last 18 years.

"He was the voice of the Rays. It's almost like you knew him as part of your family," fan James Sekanick said.

The words "shocked" and "devastated" described fans' feelings as they processed the news. Fans said Wills brought life to the games through his personality.

And those who knew Wills said his personality was the same on and off-air. 

Steve Carney, a former producer for the Rays on WDAE, said he was the life of the party and enjoyed engaging with fans in public. 

Carney said he has fond memories of trying to get his broadcast partner Andy Freed to laugh. The duo's personalities complemented each other during every play-by-play. 

"It's just an absolute gut punch to think that we have to think of Dave in the past tense," Carney said. "You couldn't help but be drawn into his orbit. He was just an absolute joy to be around."

Brian Mulcahy said Wills' emotion behind the mic shined throughout every game. While it was exciting enough to watch the Rays' playoff run to the World Series in 2008, he said it was Wills' commentary that kept fans more engaged.

"It's gonna be tough. It's gonna be real tough," Mulcahy said. 

Rays fans said the games won't be the same without Wills' voice but they'll always cherish the memories he brought.

"His contributions to the Rays organization and the Tampa Bay community will never be forgotten," the Tampa Bay Rays wrote in the news release.  

The Rays will honor Wills with a special pregame tribute this season and details will be announced at a later date.  

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