Legends On Deck

Robert Redford, Meet Roy Hobbs

Last month I concluded my 21st year of working at the Roy Hobbs World Series, considered by many to be the premier amateur baseball tournament in the country.

Roy Hobbs Baseball, the organization’s name based on Robert Redford’s character in the movie “The Natural”, had held their annual World Series event in both Orlando and Kissimmee, as well as at the former Kansas City Royals spring training home (Baseball City) in Davenport, all in central Florida between 1989 and 1992. In 1993, the event was moved to Fort Myers, on Florida’s west coast.

The Roy Hobbs World Series since I have been involved, has grown from a two-week event for players in three age groups, over 30, over 40 and a small over 48 division, to over 200 teams playing in a four-week tournament with age groups ranging from age 18 and over to age 75 and over. Many former major and minor league players have participated in the series including Bill Lee, Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd, Dante Bichette, Rick Miller, Mike Caldwell, Bill Campbell, Gary Allenson, Julio Gonzalez, Jeff Juden and Sammy Stewart, as well as ex-NFL players Doug Flutie and Doug Van Horn.

In early September 1994, I was finishing up my summer of working on the night stat crew at Howe Sportsdata International in Boston when I received a call from Bill MacKay, who at the time was the Boston Red Sox Florida Operations Director. He explained that a two-week tournament was going to be held at the Red Sox spring training home, City of Palms Stadium, as well as other sites around the Fort Myers area, and they were looking for someone to do statistics in addition to other duties.

Roy Hobbs

Even though the Red Sox have since moved to JetBlue Complex in the Fort Myers area, City of Palms Stadium is also still used for the Roy Hobbs games along with JetBlue, Hammond Stadium and the surrounding complex where the Minnesota Twins hold spring training, Terry Park (former spring training site of the Pirates, Royals and others), and the Red Sox former Player Development Complex, three miles east of City of Palms.

I hadn’t seen a live baseball game that year since the major league players went on strike August 12th, and the Red Sox were having a very abbreviated Florida Instructional League (four games, all against the White Sox) in October, which I had already committed to work at, so I jumped at the opportunity to watch two more weeks of baseball before Thanksgiving.

The first year I worked, in addition to attempting to compile statistics for all 70 teams over the two weeks based on (often incomplete) score books which were turned into me every night.  I also scored all the games at City of Palms Stadium, ran the scoreboard and did the PA announcing. Luckily now, the teams compile their own statistics, but my role since has expanded to being a site manager at whichever complex I work at each year and I also lend a hand in scheduling.

Reds Roy Hobbs

My first game was a contest between a team from Italy and the Kodak Reds, from Tennessee. All these years later, the Kodak Reds still attend the series, now fielding teams in several age groups over a number of weeks. It is truly a WORLD series, with teams over the years coming from all over the USA, Canada, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Russia, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands and the Virgin Islands. There has also been a women’s division for a number of years.

The series now runs for four consecutive weeks with the final games held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving and there are many teams and players who return every year, with several players having been involved all 26 years.

For me now, the Roy Hobbs World Series is something I look forward to as an end to my baseball season. I have been lucky to meet and become friends with a diverse group of people that come together every year for the same thing, baseball in October and November.

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