Connecticut Tigers looking for host families
By Joan Hunt - Managing Editor
Norwich - posted Wed., Apr. 13, 2011
It’s hard to say who gets the most out of the Connecticut Tigers’ Host Family Program, the players who enjoy a home away from home or the families who get a chance to help them develop into professional athletes. According to Assistant General Manager Eric Knighton, “Most people don’t realize they [the players] are just kids between 19 and 22 years old. Some of them have gone to college, where it is still somewhat structured, but for most of them it is the first time away from their home and out on their own.”
Director of Community Relations and Promotions Dave Schermerhorn coordinates the program. “Some of them are coming to America for the first time,” he said. “This is a good chance for our players to have a place to stay in a family environment to adjust to being away from home.”
As to the host family’s advantage, Schermerhorn points to the relationship that developed between New York Yankee right-fielder and switch-hitter Bernie Williams and his host family in Albany, where he started with the Yankees’ AA team. “They have kept in touch for 16-17 years,” said Schermerhorn. “So this is a way for a family to meet and develop a relationship with a potential future major leaguer,” he said. “The relationships last, and the player remembers their willingness to take them in and give them a chance to develop into a professional athlete.”
An informational meeting for those interested in learning more about the Host Family Program for the 2011 season is being held on Tuesday, April 26, from 6-7 p.m. at Dodd Stadium in “The Yard” Bar and Grill, located on the suite level. Former host family members will also be on hand to answer questions about the program and what is has meant in their lives.
“We look for a safe family environment,” said Schermerhorn, “but that doesn’t have to be a family of any particular type.” To illustrate the point, he recalled a couple of instances where older gentlemen still living on their own had hosted players in the past. “It should be a place where a player can be comfortable, safe and have someplace to go home to at night after the games, so they are not on their own,” he said.
Along with the opportunity to get to know the player(s) staying in their home, host families get a couple of other nice perks. One of them is free season tickets, another is participation in all the special events held for season ticket holders – like the preseason barbecue, where they eat with the players and get to know them before the season starts, and the post-season barbecue which includes batting practice on the field.
“During the course of the season, we will have upwards of 40 players and coaches,” said Schermerhorn, alluding to the fact that sometimes the players get called to move up or down, depending on their abilities and the needs of the ball club. “We place all of them,” he said. “At our level, it is rare to have a player more than two years,” he explained. “We have a good number back from last season, and will offer the opportunity to stay with the same host family if all are agreeable.”
Schermerhorn, who grew up in Norwich, said he was visiting recently with the mother in a host family who last year welcomed a pitcher from Venezuela into their home. He moved up to the West Michigan Whitecaps, a Class A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers that plays a longer season in the Midwest League. It is an 11-hour drive away, but they are trying to work out plans to see each other sometime during the season.
The players will arrive on June 14 for a season that kicks off June 20 at 7:05 p.m. against the Tri-City ValleyCats (Class-A affiliate of the Houston Astros). For tickets, call 860-887-7062 or visit www.cttigers.com. This is the Connecticut Tigers’ second season at Dodd Stadium, having arrived there on April 1, 2010. Regular season play ends Sept. 4, and if the team continues on to the last championship round, the season will go into mid-September. They are the Class-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers playing in the New York-Penn League.