Softball legend keeps his eye on the ball
Ray Tibbs is not your normal 85 year old guy.
He has become somewhat of an icon during his 18 years in the city’s 50 plus softball league — and the sport of softball in general — as a player, a manager and inspiration for the “younger guys”, as he calls them, who are just now in their 50s.
Tibbs started in Cape Coral’s league when he was 67 and since then he has played hundreds if not thousands of games, from the fields of Fort Myers and the Cape, to those in the Hawaiian islands where exhibition games gave way to joyous picnics.
“I played some in high school and that was it,” Tibbs said. “But once I got into it (later) I enjoyed playing and had a lot of fun.”
Originally from Cincinnati, Tibbs was a long time Cape resident before recently moving to North Fort Myers.
But he still divides his time between the Cape league and a league in Fort Myers, playing four games a day, two times a week.
The Cape’s 50 plus league has a 30-game season, played both in the summer and the winter, with as many as 14 teams in each division during the winter months.
Tibbs didn’t speculate what his lifetime batting average was, but is more often than not the starting pitcher in the games he plays.
Tibbs managed a team in 2008 that won it all during the national softball tournament held in Lee County each year, and he played in a Las Vegas tournament in 2004 where he boasted a batting average that would shame even Ted Williams.
“I hit .590 for the whole tournament,” he said.
Not only an on-the-field hero, Tibbs holds a special place off the field, too, acting as mentor and sponsor and all around good guy for other players and leagues.
Called an “ambassador” of both the 50 Plus League and the sport, League Secretary of the Board Jennifer Ford said Tibbs represents everything good and right about organized competition.
“He’s the epitome of what sportsmanship should be. He’s always a real gentleman and a real motivating factor,” she said. “He’s never negative and always supportive. He’s amazing.”
Ford and others gathered at the BMX fields last week to honor Tibbs, for both his contributions and his 85th birthday, where they presented him with both a cake and a trophy.
The celebration was a surprise, Tibbs said, but the occasion of his 85th day on earth didn’t quell his need to play softball, nor his love of the game.
If anything else, his passion for softball only intensifies with the passing days, although he jokes he’s going to “take up golf” in another five years when he’s too old to play softball.
For Tibbs, it’s more than a sport, it’s the friendships he’s made, and the connections he’s made with other during his time on the mound, and on the diamond.
“We just get to know each other and help each other out when we can,” Tibbs said. “We have a good time playing together, but we have a good time off the field, too.”
The next 50 Plus Softball League in Cape Coral starts Aug. 30, according to Jennifer Ford. Teams will be drafted Aug.10.
For more information contact Rick McPeek at the Cape Coral Parks and Recreation Department at 242-3486.