It is with sadness we report the passing of Florida Tech alumnus Tim Wakefield, a gifted athlete and compassionate soul whose magic with the baseball was surpassed only by his generosity, kindness and selfless service to his native Space Coast and adopted New England home.
Mr. Wakefield died Sunday from brain cancer, according to the Boston Red Sox. He was 57.
Born in Melbourne and with family still active in the area, Mr. Wakefield was a beloved, down-to-earth person whose immense international fame and success at the pinnacle of his profession never diminished his belief in the value of helping others, especially children.
“The world has lost a true champion both on the field and off, and we send our deepest condolences to Tim’s family and friends and the many, many others he touched,” said Travis Proctor, chairman of the Florida Tech Board of Trustees who was named to the board in 2012, two years before Mr. Wakefield joined. “Tim leaves a remarkable legacy, and Florida Tech is a far better place for his nearly 10 years of service as a trustee.”
Mr. Wakefield came to Florida Tech in the late 1980s and soon established his athletic acumen. A first basemen on the Panthers baseball team, he was named Most Valuable Player in 1987 as a sophomore and 1988 as a junior. Some of his records still stand, including single season slugging percentage and homeruns in 1987 (.798 and 22, respectively) and his career slugging percentage of .646.
That excellence would not go unnoticed.
In 1988, he was drafted by Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates as a first baseman. That began a 19-year career that saw Mr. Wakefield flourish as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox throwing one of baseball’s most vexing and unique pitches, the knuckleball.
A member of nine postseason teams for the Red Sox, Mr. Wakefield helped the team break the 86-year-old “Curse of the Bambino” with its 2004 World Series victory. The team won the World Series again in 2007.
His baseball career ended in 2011, but Mr. Wakefield continued to make his birthplace and his adopted home better places.
His gifts toward Florida Tech’s baseball program helped improve the field with lighting and fund what is now the “Tim Wakefield Batting Facility.” Beyond Florida Tech, he was a critical and longtime benefactor for Melbourne’s Space Coast Early Intervention Center (now Space Coast Discovery), where he is honored as Director Emeritus.
“Tim’s legacy to athletics extends beyond his athletic abilities during his time at Florida Tech and his positive representation of the university during his outstanding Major League Baseball career,” said Florida Tech Athletics Director Jamie Joss. “He continued to impact our athletics program by giving back by providing advice to our scholar-athletes, in philanthropy, and as a true friend to all of the baseball coaching and administrative staff.”
In the New England area, his Wakefield Warriors Program was created in partnership with Boston’s Franciscan Hospital for Children to bring patients to Fenway Park to share time with him on and off the field, and he was active with New England’s Pitching in for Kids organization, a program dedicated to improving the lives of children across the New England region, and The Touch ‘Em All Foundation founded by Garth Brooks in association with Major League Baseball.
In 2010, Mr. Wakefield was honored with baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award presented to the player who best reflects the spirit of giving back to the community.
The two-time world champion was also a two-time commencement speaker at Florida Tech, offering remarks in 2006 and again in 2019, when he received an honorary degree. He has won the university’s most prestigious awards, including the Jerome P. Keuper Distinguished Alumni Award (2016), the President’s Medal (2006) and the Alumni Association’s Humanitarian Award (2006).
“Florida Tech is relentless in what we do, from our STEM focus to our innovative teaching to our success in producing world-changing graduates, and we are honored to be associated with a person who embodied that relentless spirit with as much grace, passion and conviction as Tim Wakefield,” said Florida Tech President John Nicklow. “He was a champion in every sense of the word, and we share in the sadness of his loss that so many are feeling.”
Wakefield is survived by his wife Stacy, son Trevor and daughter Brianna.