Texans Bretons go extra mile to aid recovery
By GLENN MILLER
Roy Hobbs Baseball
A town called Hondo is in south-central Texas, due west of San Antonio and a long drive from the Gulf of Mexico and the full fury of hurricanes.
As every Roy Hobbs Baseball player knows, Fort Myers is close to the gulf. Lee County’s barrier island communities of Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach, Captiva and Pine Island sit where hurricanes make initial landfalls.
Hondo is the home of veteran Roy Hobbs player Joe Breton and his wife, Helen. Hondo is 1,343 miles from JetBlue Park, according to Google Maps. Hondo has an elevation of 892 feet. The elevation of Fort Myers is 10 feet.
When the Bretons came for the Roy Hobbs World Series in the years before Hurricane Ian, they usually stayed at the Sanibel Arms on the barrier island of Sanibel. The elevation of Sanibel is 3 feet, or 889 fewer feet than Hondo.
As Ian pummeled Lee County on Sept. 28, 2022, the Great Bretons followed the news. They soon learned the World Series was cancelled. They learned the Sanibel Arms was devastated.
But the Bretons still traveled from Hondo to Fort Myers. Joe didn’t bring his glove.
“We went to help,” Joe said.
Joe and Helen came to pitch in with Samaritan’s Purse, a faith-based charity, to help Fort Myers recover.
Volunteer duties included taking water-damaged furniture and appliances out of houses. As they drove around the couple noticed piles of debris along roadsides. Those piles included family photos.
“These things can’t be replaced,” Helen said last fall.
Joe and Helen did what they could for people.
“They’re just so grateful and thankful,” Helen said. “You could tell just by looking at their faces.”
A year later, Joe and Helen are returning to Fort Myers. They will drive from Hondo in the same 2000 Honda Accord they used last fall.
Joe will play two weeks, first in the 53s with the Philadelphia Generals and then in the 60s with the San Antonio Texans.
In mid-July, the Bretons touched base with a Roy Hobbs Baseball representative.
One of Joe’s distinctive Ian memories is that visible damage from the storm, which was Category 5 just before landfall, depended on geography.
“What part of the city you were in,” Joe said.
The barrier islands were hardest hit. The parts of communities closest to the gulf and Caloosahatchee were hardest hit by storm surge,
As they drove down I-75 and into Lee County initially things didn’t look too bad.
“It didn’t look like what we saw on the news,” Joe said.
As they drove closer to the Gulf, Joe said they started seeing boats in trees. A drive to Fort Myers Beach showed that what they saw on the news was real.
“That place was devastated,” Joe said.
“Oh, my gosh, that was the worst,” Helen said.
In Fort Myers appearances were sometimes deceiving from the outside.
“Houses looked OK until you went inside,” Helen said.
That’s when they noticed water damage.
Joe used the term “bathtub rings” to describe marks on walls where storm surge had flooded inside and left residue on walls, sometimes as high as 5 feet high.
Now, they’re back, back in the embrace of the Roy Hobbs Baseball Family. A Roy Hobbs couple and Fort Myers residents they know only as Nick and Joanne has invited Joe and Helen to stay with them.
“We don’t even know their last name,” Joe said.
Joe will bring his glove this year. They’re back for baseball and friends and key lime pie. Helen loves the Keylime Bistro on Captiva for a version of its namesake dessert.
“The best I’ve ever had,” Helen said.
The Bistro has been closed since the hurricane but was scheduled to open in September.
The Bretons planned to make 2023 the trip in that Honda Accord, which by mid-July had about 330,000 miles on the odometer.
In 2022, Joe and Helen Breton went the extra mile for Fort Myers.