If you’ve spent any considerable amount of time around an independent baseball team and its ballpark, you know how close knit the people involved really become.
The Washington WildThings began playing in Washington, PA when I was just 12 years old… 20 years later, I think it is safe to say that I truly did grow up at the ballpark and became a part of a family.
There have always been staples of the ballpark: the WildThing mascot, the Picnic Area and Party Pavilion, Pro Tech Auto Glass “windshield breaking” sponsorship spots, The Williams family who have owned the team since the beginning, and some loyal and die-hard fans who never wavered in their support – none more so than “Wild Bill.”
How else do you think he earned that name?
If you’ve ever been to a WildThings game, I am sure you saw Wild Bill… standing along the gate that leads onto the field by the home bullpen, fist bumping and high-fiving all of the players and interns as they went about their jobs. You may have heard him have a few choice words for the umpires as well… but I know they loved it as much as he loved them.
In the beginning, I went to games with family and friends. But as time went on, the novelty wore off for most people, and I began going to games by myself. However, it didn’t take long for me to be “adopted” by Wild Bill.
I lost both of my grandfathers by the time I was in high school, and Wild Bill knew just how to fill that spot in my heart.
I affectionately began calling him my “baseball Pap” and I soon became his “baby girl.”
Last night after a courageous battle with cancer and other health ailments, we lost “Wild Bill” Shipley. His passing is easily the hardest I’ve had in my adult life.
Wild Bill… You watched me literally grow up at this ballpark. My baseball Pap who I know loved me with his whole heart. 1 of the 3 musketeers, along with me and Lauren O’Dea (who I consider my baseball grandma).
Thank you for taking care of me… for making sure I ate especially after I had a long day and for making sure I stayed out of trouble (for the most part! ha). I enjoyed every single second I spent with you watching games. Thank you for believing in me… this website may not have happened if it wasn’t for you. You always asked me about my writing and encouraged me to continue even when others would put me down. You were one of the first people I told when I became a high school baseball coach. I know how proud of me you were. I will always be your baby girl. I hate that I don’t get to hear that anymore. I’m sorry you never got a chance to walk me down the aisle. No one would be good enough for your baby girl anyway. I’m upset that we never got to celebrate a championship in Washington together. But whenever it happens, I know you’ll be watching. Rest in peace, Wild Bill. You’re out of pain now 💔 I love you and I will miss you always. The stadium will not be the same without you.
I didn’t know how else to pay tribute to you… so I decided to write. I think it’s fitting that you are now a part of the website that you encouraged me to write. Thank you.
Love, your baby girl.