Resilience in the Face of Adversity: A Babe Ruth League Story


As the saying goes, "When life throws you a curveball, swing for the fences." That is exactly what the South Fort Myers (SFM) Babe Ruth League did in the face of Hurricane Ian's destruction in 2022-2023. Their year began with Fall Ball (which was canceled due to the Hurricane), then proceeded through the spring season, ending in July/August after all-stars. The 2022-2023 year was as eventful as any in the past 25 years. It began with the County Commissioners presenting the league with a Resolution commending their accomplishments, including a streak of 20 consecutive years of State Tourney appearances, 40 State Tourney appearances over the same 20-year period, and a World Series appearance. The Resolution was presented on September 20, 2022.

Eight days later, Hurricane Ian hit, destroying barrier islands just 10 miles from their home park: leveling two scoreboards, two dugout roofs, bullpen fences, and 70 championship signs from earlier years. FEMA occupied Rutenberg Park for October and November, making it impossible for the league to repair the damage. But the SFM Babe Ruth League showed resilience and determination. Despite all of this, they were able to order two new scoreboards, and a load of lumber, and collected donated steel columns, concrete, and electrical services. Several volunteers and parents rebuilt dugouts, erected scoreboards, and prepared the park to run tryouts. The 2023 season began on schedule but without lights.

Sfm `1

Due to the destruction of Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island’s facilities, the registration grew from 325 to 450, and the league formed 38 teams while scheduling games during daylight hours only. By May, 500 games were completed across tee ball, machine pitch, minors, and majors, all scheduled only to work with natural light from the sun! Allstar teams were formed for 9U, 10U, 11U, and 12U; with the latter 3 all advancing to State of Florida tournaments. The 11U team completed a perfect record to beat West Palm Beach in Palm Beach Gardens for the State Championship. SFM Babe Ruth League had a remarkably successful season despite all the Hurricane Ian-related setbacks.

SFM Dugout

In the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, the park was left in disarray and unplayable. However, thanks to the tireless efforts of Howard Gold, the league president, the park was restored to its former glory. Howard played a vital role in overseeing the extensive repair work required to get the park back in playing condition. He worked closely with the ground crew and contractors to ensure everything was done correctly, and no corners were cut. His dedication to the kids and commitment to the community was evident in the long hours he spent at the field, supervising the restoration process. Thanks to his leadership and hard work, the baseball field was once again available for the league to enjoy!