On a steamy Sunday afternoon, before one of the last Grizzlies home games of the season, the baseball team's biggest fan was remembered for his love of the sport and his dedication to the community — especially those with special needs.
More than 100 people attended a memorial in the cantina of Chukchansi Park for Patrick Murray Wilson, the Fresno businessman who helped create the Junior Grizzlies, a baseball league for special needs children, and the Field of Dreams baseball field in Clovis where the team plays.
Wilson, 60, died unexpectedly on Aug. 15. He is survived by his wife, Jamie, three children and three grandchildren.
"He lived life to the fullest," said Kelly Hernandez, Wilson's sister. "He loved his family and all of his family here" at the stadium.
Wilson was a regular who sat behind the Grizzlies dug out, wore a baseball cap with fake orange hair and was often seen throwing his hands up in celebration or disbelief during the games.
"I'm going to miss talking to him," Hernandez said. "He was one of my best friends and he was a wonderful man to a lot of people."
In a ceremony on the field before the start of Sunday's game, the Grizzlies gave Wilson's family a Fan of the Year award and unveiled his seat — in the team's bright orange color — with the inscription: "In memoriam of Patrick Wilson, who was a friend to all, a rock to his family, and the greatest baseball fan you'll ever meet."
Wilson owned and operated Patrick Wilson Construction since 1975, but since the 1990s has done the bulk of his work as Valley Rain Gutters.
When not working, Wilson attended baseball games at Chukchansi or cheered on the San Francisco Giants, even traveling to Scottsdale, Ariz., to watch them train, friends and family said.
In 2005, Wilson was instrumental in forming the Junior Grizzlies league to give disabled children, like his daughter Taylor, a chance to play the game he loved. Two years later, the Grizzlies franchise partnered with the Clovis Unified School District to create a rubber baseball field for the team to play on at Gateway High School.
Wilson was known to The Arc of Fresno and Madera Counties, a nonprofit that provides services and support to people with developmental disabilities, as Taylor's dad, said Cameron St. Clair who spoke at the memorial for Arc.
He approached the organization with large ideas such as weeklong, overnight vacations for Taylor and her special needs friends instead of the typical daylong summer camp activities, St. Clair said.
"The Arc believes, as Pat did, in providing meaningful, purposeful and unique opportunities to people living with intellectual disabilities," St. Clair said. "But Pat more than believed it, he lived it and ensured that not just Taylor, but her friends, her entire community had every opportunity the rest of us have."
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6495, firstname.lastname@example.org or @bonhialee on Twitter.