Evening the score with kindness and friendliness
By GLENN MILLER
Roy Hobbs Baseball
Dan Wombacher and his wife, Bev, could have stayed home in Tacoma, Washington, after Hurricane Ian cancelled the 2022 Roy Hobbs World Series.
They did not stay home. They came to Fort Myers in 2022 to help. And they are returning in 2023 for baseball.
They didn’t have to fly across the country in 2022 to Tampa and then rent a car and drive more than two hours to reach Fort Myers.
But they did. They wanted to help.
The why behind their November visit for Dan didn’t need a long-winded explanation.
“Well, we’ve been coming down there for so many years and the people are great,” Dan said earlier this year.
He wanted to repay the kindness and friendliness he encountered on trips to the Roy Hobbs World Series.
The World Series trip was a ritual, a holiday tradition for the Wombachers. It was their vacation, an escape from the chilly Northwest in autumn to sunny and warm Florida.
What Dan, 74, saw with his own eyes looked worse than the damage he watched on the news.
“It was way worse,” Dan said.
A year later Dan and Bev are returning. Dan is coming to play baseball. In late August Dan said he will play for his long-time team, the Washington Titans, in the 70s. He’s looking for another team so he can play for a second week in 75s.
“I just got to find a team,” Dan said,
His team last year was Habitat for Humanity. Seeing the loss last year with their own eyes instead of on TV made an emotional impact on Bev.
No video footage can equal the view one could see last year driving mile after mile on Fort Myers Beach or Sanibel.
In early January on a rainy Saturday in Tacoma, Dan talked about what he had seen. The hurricane hit on September 28, and he came to help in November. The devastation was an eye-opener as were the mountains of debris piled up throughout the region.
“I still have a hard time believing,” Dan said in January.
In late August, he felt the same way. As a native of Nebraska, Dan grew up where tornados are commonplace. Tornado damage is usually confined to relatively small geographic footprints. Not so with hurricanes. The damage from Ian was spread throughout Lee County and beyond.
Dan has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in Tacoma and hooked up with the charity’s Cape Coral office to help. The Wombachers stayed in Cape Coral during the two weeks they spent in Lee County.
Even now in his 70s, Dan can’t stop working or volunteering.
“I haven’t learned to say no,” he said.
He and Bev and the Titans have been Roy Hobbs World Series fixtures for many years. They planned to stay in a Fort Myers Beach house in 2022. Not after Hurricane Ian devastated the beach community.
Dan and Bev drove by the house’s location on the beach near the Publix.
“The house wasn’t there,” Dan said.
Bev used the same words to describe what she saw.
“The houses we had rented weren’t there,” Bev said. “It was beyond belief.”
She used the words “absolutely heartbreaking” to describe what they saw.
While Dan helped out at Habitat of Humanity, Bev stayed in the four-plex unit they rented or in one of the motel rooms they also stayed.
In late August as Hurricane Idalia swirled past Fort Myers in the Gulf of Mexico and feeder bands swept ashore, Dan and Bev were paying attention from Tacoma.
“We watch that stuff pretty close now,” Dan said of hurricanes.