Former Blast great Billy Ronson, a fan favorite who was inducted into the franchise's Hall of Fame in 2009, was found dead in his Perry Hall home Wednesday. He was 58.
A native of Fleetwood, England, Ronson was a dynamic, 5-foot-4 forward for the original Blast team from 1986-92 and then returned to the franchise for the 1998-99 season. He scored 253 points during his two stints and was named the team's Most Valuable Player in the 1990-91 season.
"It's very sad. He was a very special player who brought passion and quality to the game," said former teammate and fellow Blast Hall of Famer Mike Stankovic. "The fans fell in love with him because of his size and the style he played. He was a fantastic goal-scorer and he brought energy non-stop. That's what you want in a teammate."
Ronson turned professional at 18 when he played outdoors for Blackpool Football Club in England. He spent 12 seasons playing in English leagues before joining the Blast in 1986. He had 240 points to rank fifth on the original Blast's scoring list. He also played one outdoor season for the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League in 1992 and played indoor in various leagues for the Detroit Rockers, Baltimore Bays, Pittsburgh Stingers, and Washington Warthogs before closing out his career by signing to play with the Baltimore Spirit, renamed the Blast. He scored 13 points in 17 games during the 1998-99 season.
In addition to his 26-year playing career, Ronson spent four seasons as the head coach for the Goucher College women's soccer team starting in 1993. He returned to the Blast organization as an assistant coach and assistant general manager from 1998-2002.
Blast president/general manager Kevin Healey said Ronson had battled health issues in recent years and died of natural causes.
"First and foremost, Billy was a very good person who would do anything he could for you and that's what he did for the franchise," Healey said. "He was a player that everybody loved because of his work rate, hustle and ability. He was the consummate team player. And when he moved to the coaching and assistant general managing area, he gave everything he had to the franchise. So kind of what he did as a person is what he did for the Blast franchise."