11 attend session for player hosts, Baseball families describe bonding experiences

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Organizers of the new Shelter Island Bucks baseball team and representatives from the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League met with potential host families Tuesday night to enlist support for this summer’s games. From left, general manager Cori Cass, organizers Mike Dunning and Dave Gurney and Sag Harbor Whalers representative Tom Gleason.

It was a small turnout at the Shelter Island School auditorium Tuesday night — 11 people -— for the Shelter Island Bucks meeting for residents interested in housing the college-age players who are due to descend on the Island May 31.

Organizers expressed optimism that they would succeed in finding housing for 25 players and at least one coach. They will be on the Island from May 31 through the end of July or, perhaps, the first week in August.

Most of those attending signed a sheet indicating they wanted to be considered possible hosts.

“I think it was great,” team general manager Cori Cass said about the turnout, pointing out that the scheduling was unfortunate because it was the same night as the varsity girls basketball game at which Kelsey McGayhey was aiming to score her 1,000th career point. (She missed by one point. See story on page 1).

He added that other families unable to attend Tuesday night’s meeting had expressed interest in providing housing and said there would be at least one more meeting to explain the team’s needs to the community.

Mike Dunning called it “a very positive response” Tuesday night and said he thought those in attendance would help to spread the word to their neighbors.

Tom Gleason from the Sag Harbor Whalers and Henry Bramwell from the Westhampton Aviators — two of the other teams in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League — were on hand to share host families’ experiences, as was Jeff Dalder, whose family has hosted players for the Westhampton team.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us as adults to reinforce baseball and the love we have for baseball,” Mr. Gleason said. At the same time, he cautioned those considering hosting that the players are “teenagers and young adults” and sometimes need to be disciplined. At the same time, all the men agreed the problems they had encountered were few and were dealt with easily by league general managers and coaches.

“Ninety nine point nine percent of it is really a positive experience,” Mr. Gleason said.

Every effort is made to match players to host families most appropriate to them, he said. For example, he had one player who was a classically trained pianist and needed to be placed with a host family that had a piano on which he could practice daily. Other requests come from families who have a child who plays a particular position on a school or Little League baseball team. The families wanted to host a player who has experience with the same positions. Still others are matched based on a host’s college affiliation and the player’s college, he said.

Some players have part-time jobs during their summer stay while all participate in baseball clinics for local youths and generally perform some community service, Mr. Gleason said. Because there are 40 games during the two months the players are here, there are games scheduled five to six days per week at 5 p.m. for home games. Players have a midnight curfew on weeknights and a 1 a.m. curfew on weekends but those can be adjusted to fit individual host family needs, he said.

And if you have to be away for a few days or a week during the season, arrangements can be made to temporarily relocate the player, Mr. Gleason said.

He also noted that it’s often easier for a family to host two players rather than one but said either option is open.

The bonding that takes place between host families and players is significant, Mr. Bramwell said. He described himself as the disciplinarian who is not always beloved by players but said when his son died several months ago, after a brief illness, the outpouring from players he has hosted was overwhelming.

“The day the players leave, you cry,” he said. “You will bond with them. We probably have nine or 10 baseball sons,” he said about those the family has hosted.

Players are required to follow host family rules and families are asked to provide sleeping quarters, room in the refrigerator for the player’s food and access to a laundry room. Mr. Bramwell said hosts generally include players in family meals.

Mr. Dalder talked about a player who brought Cajun spices with him and cooked some meals for the family.

Those who may be interested in hosting a player should call Mr. Gurney at 433-1502.