When the weather begins to turn warm, Doris Clark begins her search.
For the past two summers, Mrs. Clark has been the host families coordinator for the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks baseball team, which competes in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, a summer wooden bat league for college athletes. Most of the players on the team have never been to the Vineyard before, and most need a place to call home base while they travel to and from games across New England.
“Basically, what I am looking to do is to find families, Islanders or people who just come here for the summer, to host one of my — I call them cherubs,” Mrs. Clark said.
“They’re here to work, and work they do,” she said (this year players will also get chances to work outside of the baseball diamond, as part of a new Sharks lawn care program).
“Without host families, there are no Sharks; it’s as simple as that,” said team general manager Jerry Murphy. “They really are the backbone of the organization.”
Most minor league and collegiate summer league organizations are structured around the host family, but Mr. Murphy said the need is particularly great on the Vineyard because of high housing costs in the summer. Host families are required to provide a bed and linens for their players, but many go beyond the bare minimum, stocking up on cereal and milk for breakfast and e-mailing parents to find out what their sons like to eat.
“We realize the imposition, but it usually turns out that the host moms and dads end up treating the players like their own kids,” Mr. Murphy said.
There is no typical host family, Mrs. Clark said, just “someone willing to open their hearts and their home.” Dianne Powers hosted four Sharks players last summer. They made fast friends with both Ms. Powers and her pet Great Danes. In 2011, the Sharks’ inaugural season, Joan Dunayer hosted catcher Anthony Corona. Mr. Corona will be back this year to serve as assistant coach, once again staying with Ms. Dunayer. And one lucky player stayed at the Menemsha Inn for two months with host parents Bob and Sarah Nixon.
“I always say . . . that I think of it as if friends of mine had sent their kid to live with me for the summer,” said two-time host Jessica Burnham, who will be hosting two Sharks this summer. Ms. Burnham became a host as a way to give back; her daughter Martha was a travel softball player in high school and often needed to stay with host families on Cape Cod during the season.
“There were always people that were willing to have her overnight,” Ms. Burnham said. “We really appreciated it . . . I feel like that’s what I’m doing for a kid that just really wants to come here to play baseball.”
For more information on hosting a player, please call Doris Clark at 508-693-5833 or 774-563-8752, or visit mvsharks.com. Host families receive a stipend of $500 and a season pass to all Sharks games.