Hibbert noticeably absent on celebrity softball game flyer

Roy Hibbert and his teammates pose after the game in 2013.

Roy Hibbert and his teammates pose after the game in 2013.

When Colts linebacker Robert Mathis posted this year’s flyer for the 2015 Caroline Symmes Celebrity Softball Challenge, one person was noticeably absent: Roy Hibbert.

This year's flyer, featuring the four hosts — two Colts and two Pacers players.

This year’s flyer, featuring the four hosts — two Colts and two Pacers players.

Instead, Mathis is getting help from teammate Dwayne Allen and the Pacers’ G2 guys, Paul George and George Hill.

Emails to event organizers were not immediately returned. A team source said there was no specific reason why Hibbert was not co-hosting as usual.

The move has many wondering if Hibbert not co-hosting the event and his upcoming player option with the Pacers are connected.

“Honestly, it has nothing to do with that,” one source close to Hibbert said.

Hibbert and Mathis talked last year about how they were ready to pass the torch. As Hibbert steps aside, there aren’t two better Pacers you’d want to invest in the event than George and Hill — two usual participants.

[Kaden Curtis gets his wish, meets Paul George]

Hibbert has been a staple at the annual event. In the second year of the event, 2010, the Pacers’ big man came on board to co-host it with Mathis in what has been dubbed as a friendly battle between those two.

Over the years, those two have gotten closer — with Mathis even calling Hibbert last postseason with support.

Hibbert has a big decision to make by July: Does he pickup his player option and stay with the Pacers for another season or does he turn down the guaranteed $15.5 million and sign with another team in free agency?

During their end-of-the-season presser, Pacers President Larry Bird and head coach Frank Vogel talked about how they want to play faster and smaller next year, which may cut down on Hibbert’s usage.

“Whatever he does, he does,” Bird said. “I don’t know what he’s going to do. We assume he’s going to be back. If he comes back, we’re probably going to play a different style, and I can’t guarantee him anything. He’ll have to earn it.”

Hibbert with three of his teammates back in 2013.

Hibbert with three of his Pacers teammates from 2013.

Hibbert has taken a lot of heat over the last two years for his inconsistent play, and sometimes not impacting games whatsoever as a highly-paid starter should.

“I didn’t think he played that well, to be honest,” Bird said of Hibbert’s season.

His minutes were down to around 25 per game, and his scoring average, 10.6 points per game, regressed to only top his rookie season. He also turned in 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.

Back to the softball game. Last year, Hibbert was cold at the game, unwilling to talk to media about anything basketball. The softball game? Fine. But nothing else.

We all miss young Roy, who was the life of the locker room. He had no problem opening up and was typically involved in pranks.

It’s obvious to me how much Hibbert liked the game. Each year he would be there, one time even flying in the day of the game. It was a good time for him to interact with the fans and enjoy the company of other local professional athletes. A strong number of Area 55 members — his section at Pacers games — would show up in Pacers garb and sit right behind the plate, always having their leader’s back.

But Area 55 is no more. Hibbert informed members at their mid-season get together, which was held on Feb. 22 after their win over Golden State, that this year, Season 5, would be the last for his section. Area 55 was year-to-year, with Hibbert’s aim to put fans back in the seats of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The door isn’t shut that he will attend the challenge on June 4th. Hope to see him there, as usual.

Below are two videos I created from the softball challenge, in 2011 and 2012.

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