Imagine watching your children or grandchildren play a game of catch with a future big-league pitcher in your backyard, or serving a hamburger to baseball’s next great slugger during your family’s summer barbecue.
Those are a few examples of the experiences host families have when they welcome Cape Cod Baseball League players into their homes during the summer months.
America’s top collegiate summer baseball league will resume play this summer when the Cape League begins its 2021 campaign on June 20. Each of the league’s 10 teams are still looking for local families to allow players to stay with them, and that includes the Chatham Anglers, Harwich Mariners and Orleans Firebirds.
“We are still looking for a few beds,” said Orleans housing coordinator Nancy Nickerson, an Eastham resident who is set to host players for the 20th summer. “We have a great core group of families that has been with us for eight or 10 years and in some cases longer, but we’re looking to add a few people.”
Nickerson admitted it has been a little more challenging to find host families this year, though she quickly pointed out that all players will have received a COVID-19 vaccination before they arrive on the Cape — a distinction that will hopefully alleviate concerns families might have about welcoming a stranger into their home during a pandemic.
“I think this year was definitely a little bit harder than others,” she said. “All of our coaches and players, our volunteers and interns, are going to be vaccinated before they come. Hopefully that will make for a safer season and take some of the stress off of the host families.”
Chatham Anglers Association President Steve West said he and his wife began hosting players in 2011 and that it’s been a rewarding undertaking to watch the college-aged boys pursue their dreams on the diamond.
“We immediately fell in love with the whole process,” West said. “The kids are all good kids and they are focused on baseball and they kind of blend in with the family and the community.”
While there are certainly special moments shared between host families and players, West noted that the players maintain busy schedules and are rarely a bother.
“They’re 20-year-olds, so they don’t exactly hang out with you all the time,” he said. “But they’ll do what you tell them and they are kind and nice. They give a perspective to us older folks that we haven’t had in a while.”
There are various “perks” to being a host family. Families receive weekly rent of roughly $100 depending on the team and are able to take part in various functions associated with their respective clubs. In Chatham, host families will be invited to attend a preseason barbecue, an in-season lunch at Chatham Bars Inn and a late-season lobster and clambake under the lights at Veterans Field.
Nickerson said Orleans typically holds similar events for its host families, including a season kickoff and a picnic, though acknowledged she wasn’t aware of how COVID-19 will affect various events throughout the season.
The relationships host families and players make over the summers often grow stronger as the years go by.
“We’ve established some long-term relationships with some of the guys,” West said. “We’ve been invited to weddings, we’ve watched some of them progress in baseball up to the Major League level, and others didn’t succeed in baseball, but they exceeded in other careers. The whole process has just been great.”
For those interested in becoming a host family or learning more about the process should reach out to the clubs in their respective towns. Nickerson can answer questions about being a Firebirds host family via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone, 508-255-3328.
Chatham residents interested in being a host family for the Anglers should reach out to Steve West at email@example.com or by phone at 508-241-4426. The Harwich Mariners did not return calls from The Chronicle ahead of press time, but the team’s website indicates prospective host families should contact team president Mary Henderson via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email Brad Joyal at email@example.com