KEVIN SABITUS/ TAMPA BAY RAYS
AMVETS Department Commander of the Year award-winner Terry Corson, a North Port resident, throws out the traditional first pitch during Friday’s Tampa Bay Rays game. Corson’s son arranged the honor and his family kept it a secret up until the moment it was announced in the stadium
By SCOTT LAWSON NORTH PORT EDITORNORTH PORT — Terry Corson was taken by surprise in August when he was named AMVETS Department Commander of the Year for the nation. And on Friday, he was taken back again. His son, Shawn, was talking about the accomplishment of the job at Tampa General Hospital. And word made it to the Tampa Bay Rays. And a plan was put into motion. “So my son had sent me an email and said, ‘Dad, we’re going to a Rays game,’” Terry Corson said. Shawn Corson said he’d received a chance to take part in batting practice before a game and he wanted his father there to see it happen. It was exciting but vague. They were going to get a tour of the facility and be on the ﬁeld prior to the game.
Terry Corson wanted to watch his son take batting practice, but batting practice ﬁnished and Terry thought there must have been an error.
“And then (Shawn) says: ‘You’re going to throw the ﬁrst pitch out,’” Terry Corson said.
An announcement was made, and the AMVETS Post 312 member was escorted to the mound for the traditional opening of the game.
Terry Corson hurled the ball to Rays player Andrew Velazquez.
It was a shock to him, something he was still laughing about days later. His wife, Landa, said she’d known weeks in advance and had to hold onto a secret.
“I was so worried I was going to blurt it out,” Landa Corson said. “But I didn’t. I’m so proud of myself.”
The baseball club was quick to want to showcase Corson.
“The Rays do a tremendous amount for veterans,” he said, saying the team told his son: “We’ll give you free seats and everything. And we’ll have him throw the ﬁrst pitch of the game out.”
The moment came after a few exciting months for Terry Corson. One of the leading AMVETS ofﬁcials in Florida, he was named AMVETS Florida Commander of the Year in June. In August, that was followed up with his being named the AMVETS National Commander of the Year. That moment came as a surprise as well.
“I think it is very much results-based. Our numbers were up; our program hours; our membership was up (in Florida,” Corson said.
In addition, he’d assisted with several situations for AMVETS inspector general recently.
“It’s an incredible honor to be named the Department Commander of the Year,” he said.
There are 41 AMVETS departments; essentially one for each state that has an AMVETS presence.
AMVETS began with a few veterans talking in 1943 and was Congressionally chartered a year later.
“We are 300,000 representing 20 million veterans,” he said.
The veteran organization assists with VA claims and other needs for those who were in the military. Unlike some veteran organizations, there are few rules for membership. A veteran from any branch who has an honorable discharge is accepted, along with active duty, reserve, and national guard veterans.
The work with the Veterans Administration plays a large part in the AMVETS efforts.
“If a veteran is having troubles with the VA, they play the liaison between the veteran and the VA — and their track record is remarkable,” he said.
Corson’s plan for next year is to run for the job as AMVETS national ﬁnance ofﬁcer.
But this week, he’s basking in the ﬁrst pitch.
“It was so much fun to watch my son do this for his dad,” Landa Corson said