Teammate answers the call
By GLENN MILLER
Roy Hobbs Baseball
Veteran Roy Hobbs player and umpire Tedd Shaffer was in his riverfront Fort Myers home around 11 p.m. three days after Hurricane Ian screamed through Lee County on Sept. 28.
He was working away at cleaning up his guest bedroom closet in, as he put it, a “pile of debris.”
His house in the Fort Myers Shores area east of I-75 had been swamped by two feet of water. The phone rang. Near midnight. Three days after a Category 4 storm devastated the area. As Shaffer cleaned up his water-logged home.
“When he called that night, I was in a bad place,” Shaffer said.
The “he” Shaffer referred to was friend Bob Dearth, a Roy Hobbs Hall of Famer. The call soon changed things for Shaffer, in ways physical, mental and residential.
Dearth, 58, lives in Chicago, more than 1,000 miles north and far away from hurricane damage.
The retired Chicago police officer is more than an ex-cop and talented baseball player and loyal friend. He is also a contractor with decades of experience who knows his way around dry wall and plumbing and carpentry and mold and electrical outlets and kitchen cabinets and closets and so much more.
Shaffer learned that night his friend was on the way, that Dearth was going to drive roughly 1,300 miles one way to a friend in need in an area filled with other desperate people. He isn’t sure of the date, but Dearth thinks he reached Shaffer’s home around Oct. 10, 11 or 12. Those dates were about two weeks after Ian.
Maybe Dearth, who manages 3 Chicago Knights team and plays 3 weeks in Fort Myers, has a different take on that 11 p.m. phone call and Shaffer’s mood.
“He was in good spirits,” Dearth said. “I could hear it in his voice.”
Perhaps it was the phone call that elevated Shaffer from a “bad place” to “good spirits.” Shaffer, a retired Cincinnati firefighter, knew Dearth used to build houses and that his knowledge and tools would be an immense aid in the recovery of his home.
“I told him I’d be there,” Dearth said.
Dearth knew his friend could not stay in his house for the time being and did not like the idea of the situation becoming a long-term exile.
“I couldn’t see my friends not living in their home,” Dearth said.
So, he headed to see his friends.
He didn’t drive from round the corner or from the next town or even the same state. He packed up his 2007 Yukon with about 150,000 miles on the odometer and headed south.
He didn’t pop into town for just a couple of days. Hardly. Altogether, Dearth spent about 6-7 weeks in Florida. He flew home for Thanksgiving but then returned to work again on Shaffer’s house. All told, Dearth estimates he spent 48 days in Fort Myers.
He also worked in a break to travel across the state to Vero Beach to compete in another tournament.
But the focus was helping out. He stayed in the master bedroom of Shaffer’s house while Tedd and his wife, Michelle, stayed on their houseboat, Prime Property.
There were no baseball games in Fort Myers for Dearth. The 2022 Roy Hobbs World Series would have been his 29th. He had stayed on Fort Myers Beach 27 years for the event.
He did take one drive out to the beach for a look. He said it was “depressing” seeing the devastation. The trip involved only a short jaunt over the Matanzas Pass Bridge and then he turned around and went back to the mainland.
“I did not want to cross over but I did,” Dearth said.
A quick glance was more than enough.
“I couldn’t even bear to look,” Dearth said.
The focus of the trip, though, was helping his friend in Fort Myers Shores. Shaffer is profoundly grateful for the help. He tried to pay Dearth something for his time and labor.
“The guy would not take a dime,” Shaffer said.
Shaffer at 61 is only 3 years older than Dearth but was impressed by the younger man’s energy.
“I can’t keep up with the guy,” Shaffer said,
Bob Dearth’s visit was sort of like a gift from heaven for Tedd Shaffer.
“I’m not a religious guy but he was the answer to a prayer,” Shaffer said.