At 90 years old, Ray Tibbs knows a thing or two about softball. Over a decade ago, when this Ohio native turned snowbird began wintering in Fort Myers, he was quite excited to join a 60+ softball league in his new seasonal hometown, but he quickly discovered a gaping void in the local softball community. Sure, Fort Myers has an over 50 league, but Tibbs wanted a place where older players of any age would feel welcome.
“There was no place to play,” Tibbs lamented, referring to the complete lack of 60+ leagues in Fort Myers and Cape Coral back then. A decade may not seem like a lot in many aspects of life, but as Tibbs so plainly explains, “Ten years makes a big difference in softball.”
Never one to give up, Tibbs decided if there wasn’t already a 60+ league, he’d just have to make one.
12 years later, the Ray Tibbs 60+ Senior Softball League is still going strong, with a full schedule of play in the winter months. The league currently has six teams that play at Shady Oaks Park in Fort Myers on Tuesday and Thursday mornings during the months of January, February and March. With many of its players from Florida, the league is also comprised of seasonal residents from as many as 16 different states and Canada, according to Tibbs. As far as the professionalism and organization of the league, Tibbs did plenty of leg work to get all of his bases covered – each team in the league has a manager, he ensures all teams have a pitcher and a catcher before the rest of the roster is filled, and he schedules the players to act as umpires for each other’s games. The league rents the field from the city of Fort Myers, and there is a $55.00 fee per player. Tibbs says compared to golf, it’s still very small, but it’s a great time for all – and very inclusive.
“We have players of all abilities,” he shares. “Some good and some not so good. It’s a chance for enjoyment and exercise, and you’re meeting people who like the game like you do. It’s a friendly competition. When playing you may forget about any problems you have.”
Seasonal Fort Myers resident Mike Ecker, 66, agrees with Tibbs about the social benefits of the league.
“It is a good group of guys,” says Ecker, who lives half the year in Wisconsin. “You meet different people.”
Creating opportunities for socializing was definitely part of Tibbs vision for the league, an aspect he ensured by adding a rotation so players don’t stay on the same team forever.
Neil Fountain says this is one of his favorite parts of the league. “I like the rotation,” he said. “You have different players on your team every year. You’re never stuck with the same teammates.”
In addition to the league’s friendliness and professionalism, it also boasts a welcoming spirit that makes it easy for any man over 60 to join – in fact, all you have to do is ask.
“I was just driving around,” says Steve Johnson, who moved to southwest Florida from Canada. “It looked like fun. I asked if I could join and they said ‘sure.’”
Longtime league members say there’s one main reason the league has been so successful – the devotion and kindness of its dedicated founder.
“Ray Tibbs is such a positive, enthusiastic, caring person,” says yet another league member, Dick Dodge. “I am proud to call him my friend.”
For those on the fence about joining, Dodge encourages them to take the leap, revealing the league’s best part of all – it makes you feel like a kid again.
For more information on the Ray Tibbs 60+ Softball League, call Ray Tibbs at (239) 246-2632.