Will Bleakley’s death is still being felt, and it’s prompted some of his closest friends to honor him by hosting a baseball tournament in his name.
The St. Petersburg Storm baseball team, which Bleakley was a part of before his death, will host the Will Bleakley Memorial Baseball Tournament from April 29 to May 3 at multiple venues in Clearwater and St. Petersburg, aiming to raise money for a USF scholarship in his name.
“This has really become my full time job and I am honored to be able to do it,” said Anthony Turchetti, team manager and tournament director.
The tournament will feature 12 teams from all over the state, competing for a chance to play in the championship game at Bright House Networks Field. Ticket sales, team fees, concessions and auctions will help fund the tournament — and a $5,000 USF scholarship in Bleakley’s honor.
Other venues of the tournament will include Frank Tack Field and Joe DiMaggio Complex.
On March 1, Bleakley and three friends — NFL players Marquis Cooper and Corey Smith and former USF football player Nick Schuyler — went missing in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat overturned. The Coast Guard searched more than 20,000 miles of the Gulf’s waters but found only Schuyler clinging to an overturned 21-foot boat.
“I was on deck at our game the day we found out,” said Turchetti, who was also a friend of Bleakley’s. “It wasn’t like him to miss a game. I was shocked, but in my mind I thought they would find them.”
Tampa Bay-area businesses, as well as the University, are sponsoring the tournament and scholarship.
The scholarship is intended for one or more high school graduates who exemplify the courage, kindness and commitment Will showed, according to the offical Web site.
Bleakley led the Clearwater League last season in batting average, home runs and saves, helping the Storm win the league championship. In high school, he helped Crystal River High School make the state final four in baseball at Legends Field in 2002.
“Will was quiet in the dugout but had a powerful personality and a strong presence on our team,” Turchetti said. “We spent a lot of hours together playing twice a week for the past year.”
Every team that enters will get three games guaranteed, with the top four progressing to the semifinals. Team entry fees are $250.
Donation and tournament information can be found on the official Web site at wb84.com.