Debbie Dobbs, the district administrator for Florida Little League District 14, has been volunteering for 25 years, putting in hundreds of hours each year. That will come to an end this fall when her final term comes to a close.
Given her record of volunteer service to Little League Baseball and Softball — about 25 years when including her days as a team mom at Windermere Little League — one might assume baseball is Debbie Dobbs’ favorite sport.
“I love football — football is my game,” Dobbs said with a smile, adding she grew up a Florida Gators fan in St. Petersburg.
Favorite sport or not, Dobbs’ remarkable run of involvement in the youth baseball and softball community — a career that has included service at Windermere Little League and 22 years with Florida Little League District 14 — is coming to an end this fall. The district administrator for District 14 the last 13 years, Dobbs is ready to hand her duties to a newly elected successor Oct. 1.
Like many parents, Dobbs began volunteering when her sons began playing at Windermere Little League in the early 1990s. But Matt Dobbs — who is 36 and serving in the United States Coast Guard in Hawaii — aged out of baseball in the mid- to late-1990s, and Nathan Dobbs — who is 33 and living in Denver — aged out around the turn of the century.
Everything after that, then, has been for the betterment of the community.
“I’m a very active person, and I like to be involved,” Dobbs said. “I felt like this was a good way to give back to the community — I actually enjoyed it. … It was pretty easy to do, and I enjoyed it, so I kept on doing it.”
Dobbs has been on the Windermere Little League Board of Directors, served as WLL’s Vice President and been an Assistant District Administrator for District 14, all before she took on her current role.
As the district administrator, she helps each league president. Last spring, District 14 included Winter Garden Little League, Windermere Little League, Dr. Phillips Little League, South Lake Little and Ocoee Little League. She also facilitated the “All-Stars” tournaments between leagues in June and July.
An executive assistant for Disney, a company she has worked at for 45 years, Dobbs said the administrative and organizational skills the job requires are second nature.
“What motivated me is I’m a very organized person — it just kind of is in my DNA to be very organized and to want things done the right way,” Dobbs said.
In fact, it is a good thing that Dobbs works for the region’s most famous employer. Disney’s desire for its employees to be involved in their communities has helped facilitate her at-times rigorous volunteer schedule that can add up to 400 or 500 hours by year’s end.
“I’m very fortunate to work for a company that is supportive of community efforts because some of that has creeped over sometimes into my job,” Dobbs said.
As district administrator, Dobbs has nine volunteer staffers and also gets to work with each league. Over the years, she says, she has got to know plenty of special kids and their parents.
“The kids are great — I love the kids, and I’ve never had an issue with any child out here,” Dobbs said. “The parents — they can be challenging at times — but there are a lot of good people out here working in the leagues very hard to maintain the programs and provide an opportunity for children to play baseball.”
Of course, all good things must come to an end. Dobbs, who is 64, plans to continue working at Disney for the near future but said the end of her four-year term this October seemed as good a time as any to call it quits.
“I decided that I want to have a little more free time for myself,” Dobbs said.
Before that, she’ll make one more visit to the Mecca of Little League Baseball — Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where the Little League World Series is held each summer. Dobbs went for the first time last summer and said the experience was profound.
“It was phenomenal,” Dobbs said. “I think it’s an experience that everybody should have. … They really treat the children like they’re superstars — it was great.”
Dobbs’ time with District 14 has seen growth in some leagues — Winter Garden Little League stands out, as its robust participation has the league nearly bursting at the seams — and troubles in others. Pine Hills Little League, Rolling Hills Little League and MetroWest Little League all have disbanded since 2000, and Ocoee Little League voted last week to move from Little League to Babe Ruth Baseball.
Still, as her time winds down and she prepares to pass the baton, the Horizon West resident is excited for a new chapter — and hopeful that she made a lasting impact in her community.
“I’m very glad I did it,” Dobbs said. “I hope I’ve made my mark by having a very good and organized community-based program for all of our children.”