03/10/05 1:15 PM ET
Remembering Paul C. Smith
Readers, friends share memories of Rays reporter
By / MLB.com
I basically knew Paul from toddler-hood on, so I don't remember not knowing him. We both took up journalism in high school, then through college, but he turned to newspaper reporting and I to wedding photography. Some years later I photographed Paul and Martha's wedding. Dale and Kelsey, your father was a man of tremendous character who seemed like he always possessed a quiet dignity and a certain down-to-earth humbleness, even as a young boy. You are so blessed -- you are his legacy. Our prayers surround you two, Martha, and all of Paul's family and friends. Perhaps Emily Dickinson expressed it perfectly when she wrote these last two words in her very last diary entry: "Called back." Farewell for now, noble friend!
I have so many memories of spending time with my father. He always put my sister and me first, whether taking me fishing or to the Frank Sargeant Outdoors Expo every year, or pitching softballs to my sister. He touched so many people and will certainly be missed.
I love you, Dad. You will always be in my heart, and most certainly never forgotten. I love you more than anything, always and forever. I know you loved all of us, too.
Paul was speaking figuratively years ago, when he asked me during a job interview if I was "hungry enough to sweep the peanut shells off the sports department floor." Now it's littered with shreds of our hearts.
Bob Bellone, Tampa Tribune
My heart is very heavy today, as I realize the world has lost a jewel of a man. I haven't seen Paul in many years, as I go back to being a high school reporter with him at St. Pete Catholic. He was the editor as a senior -- I was an aspiring junior -- and he was always very gracious in helping me along, even way back then.
Paul was an outsized combination of smarts, heart, class and wit. He personally did the eulogy for his mother's funeral, making it the most memorable service any of us ever attended. He didn't bat an eye when an
old lady wearing a nightgown showed up for the buffet after the service. And his speeches, including his going-away speech when he left the Tribune, should have been recorded for posterity. A lot of us are broken-hearted thinking about Paul today. But we're smiling, too, remembering the boy that was the man.
Paul C. was one of the most brilliant baseball minds I've ever known. He seemed to have total recall, and he could evaluate talent like a scout. Most importantly, he loved his family first. He was one of the founding members of our fantasy baseball league (The Plantation League), starting in Tallahassee in 1981. He couldn't attend the inaugural draft that day, due to a reporting assignment, so he instructed us to pick every available Cincinnati Reds player. Unfortunately, this was a few years past the heyday of the Big Red Machine. What a tremendous guy with a great sense of humor. I'll always remember his hefty laughter and those huge paws of his.
For the past two seasons, the one thing I knew I could always count on was the man sitting to my right -- Paul C. Smith. I stepped into the Devil Rays clubhouse in April 2003, not knowing what to expect. There, I found this big man with a welcoming smile and handshake. Paul and MLB.com took a chance on me, and for that I'm eternally thankful. I was still in college and had barely covered any MLB baseball. Yet, Paul walked me through it with plenty of patience and praise. He rarely seemed to take a day off, but I loved catching him up on the game while he spent an inning or two with his family in the stands or wanted just a little more time fishing with his son. There were many games where both his children would be waiting at his computer after the game, sending IMs and surfing the net waiting for their dad to wrap up his interviews. I'm sure they treasure those days as much as I do.
Anthony Gagliano, The Valdosta Daily Times, former devilrays.com intern
Paul knew I was, and am, the biggest Red Sox fan. This will tell you a little bit about what kind of guy he was. On a visit, he brought me a Roger Clemens poster which was signed, "To John, Tallahasse's biggest Red Sox fan -- Roger Clemens, '20 Ks.'" He got it signed at a golf tournement. I was blown away. It has always been something I treasured, but it has new meaning now.
My wife and I first met Paul at Tropicana Field in 2002, while we were working with the Rays. He registered for a chance to win some Harry Potter books that were being given away. He indicated how much his children enjoyed the Potter series. We talked about the Rays, and he said to email him with any questions or comments I have about the team. I thought to myself, "Yeah, like I'll ever get a reply." Well, he replied to every e-mail I ever sent since (and there were many), remembered us when he saw us in Spring Training and even talked baseball with me at the Olive Garden one night when we just wanted to say hello while he was dining with his family. I apologized to him and his wife for interrupting their meal, but they were both very nice and gracious, and willing to talk about baseball. I think the fans of the Devil Rays have lost a tremendous source of insight into the team, but over the past two and a half years it has become clear to me that his family has lost a good person, father and husband. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them during this very difficult time.
Paul's family meant everything to him, but his Tribune family was important to him as well. I was extremely intimidated by him and his large stature as he towered over me, but as I got to know him I learned the largest part of his body was his heart. He was always there if I just wanted to talk, especially after my father was put on the liver transplant list at Shands Hospital. Paul always looked out for me. It was a sad day for me when he left the Tribune, but that sadness doesn't begin to compare with sense of loss I feel now.
I worked with Paul C. many, many years ago at the Tallahassee Democrat. He remains the most unfailingly upbeat person I've ever met working in newspapers, and likely will continue to hold that distinction as long as I'm alive. Nothing got him down, ever. Just being around him was a mood enhancer. Conversely, hearing of his death this week has laid me low. My prayers -- and those of everyone who ever knew him, I'm sure -- are with his family. And wherever Paul C. is now, I'm sure he's jabbering a mile a minute about baseball, and everyone around him is smiling.
Paul C. Smith was the most sincere co-worker I've ever had. He cared a lot about his job and did it well. But he cared more about his family, and was rightfully never ashamed to say that. Never did I cover a baseball game with Paul when he didn't converse frequently with his family. He'd get friendly IM pings from his children or, on those many occasions his wife and kids were at Tropicana Field as spectators at a game Paul was covering, he would go out to the stands and watch an inning with them. It's hard to have a more worthwhile lunch break than that, isn't it? As a father of three young boys myself, I always got a kick out of the joy Paul took in his kids. They were his pride and joy. There will never be another Paul C. Smith. The thought of covering a baseball game at Tropicana Field without Paul C. at my side is almost unbearable, but I will do it and be strong about it because that is what he would want.
Ian Browne, MLB.com Red Sox reporter
As a big, strong man, Paul threw the hardest bowling ball I ever saw and could hit a golf ball further out of bounds that anyone I knew. Good times.
Paul was the acting Pasco bureau chief for the Tampa Tribune when I came to interview for the position. I remember he was kind and didn't pull any punches about the stress of the job. He spoke of his love of his family and, of course, baseball. I'll keep his family and friends in my thoughts and prayers.
Mary McCoy, Pasco bureau chief, Tampa Tribune
Paul was a great man. I have e-mailed with many writers asking for advice with getting involved in journalism. He had responded to my e-mail quickly just this past Friday. He gave me great advice, some of the best I have ever gotten. He took the time to read my e-mail and give such a thoughtful response. He wished me luck and told me to keep him updated with my decisions. This meant a lot to me, because it's not every day you get to talk to a sports writer like he was. His e-mail explained everything; he was a great person who was always willing to help, and a great husband and father. I hope the best for his family and friends.
Matthew S., New Jersey
I knew Paul and his family from the Lutz Leagurettes Softball for the past 6 years. He was just an outstanding individual, as is the rest of his family. My daughter, who played softball with his daughter, told me yesterday afternoon and I was devastated. Many of the girls who played in the league for him and played with his daughter were calling each other once they found out. We had just seen him Saturday at the field, and to think by that night he had this happen is a tough pill to swallow. I could go on and on with his qualities and what a fine person he was, but then this message might never end. Our prayers go out to his immediate family, and from his extended family, at Lutz Leaguerettes, he will be missed.
Over the past year I've carried on an e-mail relationship with Paul. This is just terrible. To say he was the best MLB.com writer is an understatement. His articles were full of detail and he seemingly had all access to the Rays. I will miss him for his behind-the-scenes scoops. What a loss!
I am one of the many Devil Rays fans who will surely miss Paul C. Smith. Paul really cared about the fans. He listened, he was approachable, he took our questions, he even engaged us in e-mails. He was realistic about the Devil Rays' prospects for the upcoming season, but always upbeat about the team making progress and putting the pieces together to give us a chance to compete in the tough AL East in a couple more years. Paul offered the fans honest, objective, and well-reasoned analysis -- and, more than anything, hope. My condolences and prayers go to Paul's family. Know that he made a difference for a lot of us.
I didn't know Paul Smith, but I have to say he must have been a remarkable person. He took the time out of his busy schedule to personally e-mail a student of mine who had e-mailed the mailbag. It was just a small question from a little boy who wanted to know something that mattered very much to him. It wasn't a question that an adult would want to know, but Paul knew it mattered to my student. I appreciate him for the person he was, and how he took time to care about a young person.
I find myself facing this very daunting and exciting future as a professional female baseball photographer whose career has finally taken off without my cheerleader and my main backer in the business of photographing for, and writing about, baseball. Paul was my daily morning cup of coffee. I read his work on the Tampa Bay
Devil Rays site every day before I did anything for anybody. He was always on the other end of the e-mail button, always there when I needed him -- and believe me, I needed him a lot over the last few years!
The most important thing Paul ever did for me was encourage me to try to do things I never thought I could!
He told me just to always, always be myself. And when he took me seriously and constantly encouraged me, I believed I could make it all work.
Paul C. was like an older brother you always wanted to hang around with because he had a great outlook on life. Family always came first and work was meant to be fun. I'll miss the big fella.
Scott Ridge, ESPN.com Baseball Editor
While working at the Tampa Tribune, I got to know Paul, who was never too busy to talk baseball with a fellow fan. In later years, I looked forward to seeing him at Legends Field when the Rays came over to play the Yankees. Last week I e-mailed him asking about a Rays scout and received his e-mail response
on Friday. A little over 24 hours later, he was gone. A real shocker.
I worked with Paul at the Tampa Tribune's operation in Pasco County, and am shocked and saddened to hear of his passing. Paul was a devoted family man, a straight shooter and a stand-up guy. He taught me a lot about life in the months that we worked together. Paul believed in treating people the way he wanted to be treated, and he practiced what he preached. We can all honor his memory by doing the same.
Annette Mardis, Assistant Team Leader, The Pasco Tribune
I really enjoyed Paul's in-depth coverage of the Devil Rays. He was the one reporter I could count on to provide an objective evaluation of the talent on the team and in their system. I'll miss his reporting on MLB.com. My sympathy goes out to his family.
Paul was a wonderful husband to Martha and a devoted and caring father to children, Dale & Kelsey. He was also a good friend with a great sense of humor. He always had a smile and positive outlook, and was an absolute pleasure to be around.
Diana L. Nunez
Paul reminded me of Tank McNamara -- a good, big guy with a big heart. He was a great leader even at our student paper, the Independent Florida Alligator at the University of Florida. He was sports editor there, and was a great guy to work for. Seemed he was always smiling, and nothing ruffled him. He was firm and fair. I'm better for having known him.
Paul was such a great person. I knew him and his family through the Lutz Leagurettes softball league. He
always had a smile on his face and a great big "hello" for everyone. This is a great loss for his family and friends, as well as the community. He will be greatly missed.
What a very sad day, and what absolutely terrible news, for us to lose such a wonderful guy. I worked with Paul C. at The Tampa Tribune from 1986-2000, and without him, I'd never have had the chance to do the things I've done in my journalism career. From the day I walked in the doors as an eager freelancer, Paul took a liking to me and took me under his wing. He really taught me a lot about the business and how to work with people in the business -- but much, much more about life and putting family first. He was the consummate family man, and that's what I always admired most about him -- his sense of priorities. Smart, witty, mentoring, forthright, decent ... that was Paul C. Smith. I'm going to miss him a lot.
I only met Paul one time, and it was a brief encounter. I umpired one of Kelsey's games. Paul was recovering from the broken leg, and had not yet begun covering Spring Training. He was the official "book" for the game. We conversed, we talked about his fall and recovery and I told him that I was praying for him. He had a smile on his face, joy in his countenence and was just happy to be watching Kelsey and the other girls play ball.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.