Columbia Fireflies honor beloved fan

Ron Smith stands next to his grandson Liam Smith who throws the first pitch for the May 18 Fireflies game. A slide show of photos honoring Pam Smith are shown on the billboard behind the field. | Photos: Barbara Ball

COLUMBIA – When the ballpark was being built for the Columbia Fireflies, there was a game when a stray cat got into the ballpark, says Brad Shank, the team’s president.

Chasing the cat through the seating area, team officials had remembered that team supporter Pam Smith had a heart for animals, and so they called her. In response, she and her husband, Ron, drove down from Winnsboro to pick it up and take it home – and they adopted it.

“Even the smallest things,” Shank says. “Even a cat. She just had a heart that she wanted to save that cat if she could.”

Unfortunately, Pam Smith – a loyal fan and season ticket-holder since the team’s first year in 2016 – died in March after a yearlong fight against brain cancer.

Pam Smith

 But in a testament to her character and the positive impact she had on the Fireflies community, she was honored Saturday, May 18 with an event before the game.

The team showed a montage of photos in her honor, and her 12-year-old grandson – her “special buddy” who’s been particularly distraught over her death – had the opportunity to throw out the first ball in her honor.

“It’s really a way that we can draw attention to her life and to how much we cared about her and how much she cared about other people,” says Shank. “Here at the ballpark that we’re stewards of… we always want to use our platform to spread joy, spread good things, positivity, and that’s truly what Pam did.”

Pam’s husband, Ron Smith, has countless stories similar to that one, like the time she was driving down the road, saw a dog that was injured and hobbling on an injured leg. She immediately stopped, wrapped the dog in a towel, and drove it to the vet.

The Smiths ultimately paid for the dog’s care, including a surgery that saved its leg, and took the dog in.

“She was like that with people too,” he says. “In the over half-century we spent together, many people described her as an angel on earth. 

“She was just that kind of person, inside and outside, just very different to have that kind of beauty she had inside,” Ron Smith says. “She was quite a person.”

She was petite, he says, but her small size belied the size of her faith and her heart for people – whether it was helping people in need, or caring for the dozens of wounded or homeless animals that she took in over the years.

“Pam fit right in. She knew everybody and loved everybody,” Ron Smith says. “That’s just the way she was.”

She fought the cancer for 14 months, trying all available treatments until it took her life at age 72.

Her funeral, he says, drew a standing-room-only crowd – and a crowd turned out again Saturday to see her honored before the game.

Always a sports fan, she bought season tickets for the Fireflies every year.

“She loved sports. That’s how we met – I was playing and her watching,” Ron Smith says with a laugh.

“One of the pictures that I gave them for the tribute at the stadium was me and her sitting on the concrete that had just been poured behind home plate. There weren’t even seats, and I think there were guys behind us working on it.”

Kevin Duplaga, chief revenue officer for the Fireflies, says Pam Smith was a joyful presence at the ballpark who was forever bringing family and friends out to enjoy the games and have a good time.

“We want our fans and our community to come here and create memories. We want to give something to look forward to, something to celebrate, something that can just bring the community together when they’re here at a ball game,” says Duplaga, “and I think Pam Smith really represented that.”

Brad Shank, Fireflies Team President, left; Pam’s son Brad Smith, Pam’s husband Ron Smith; Kevin Duplaga, Fireflies Chief Revenue Officer; and in front, Pam’s grandson Liam Smith.

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