There are many adjustments that are necessary for a player to succeed in the Alaska Baseball League. Even more important than the switch from aluminum to wood bats is the switch from living at home or at school to living in someone else's home, under the care of a host family.
This is certainly the subject that I was most unsure of as I envisioned my Alaska experience during the long flight from New Jersey.
Living with a host family essentially means becoming a part of that family for the duration of the season, which is about two months. In many summer league situations, a group of players are placed in an apartment together, and forced to live on their own. After experiencing that last summer, I can vouch for the fact that the host family situation is much better.
While each case differs, most host family experiences are similar. The parents open their home to the player, allowing him to sleep, eat, shower, relax and work as he pleases.
For the player, the experience is extremely helpful for the entire summer, and also enjoyable, because the family will provide opportunities to experience what Alaska has to offer off the baseball field. And many times a good host family experience will allow a player to perform better on the field.
For the host family, the time and money spent on the player enables them to enjoy summer baseball at its best, while also meeting and spending time with someone from a different part of the country. Often, the communication between the player and the family extends far beyond the summer.
Luckily for my teammate Adrian Schau and I, we were placed in the home of Mike and Lisa Ping in Nikiski. The Pings and their two daughters come to all of our home games, literally with bells on, and even travel to some of our road games.
The living situation for Adrian and I is fortunate, as we each have our own room in the basement and we share a bathroom. The kitchen, car, computer, television, phone, laundry room, air hockey table and even hot tub are open to us whenever we choose to use them.
Our host parents do a lot for us, even going as far as taping aluminum foil to my windows so I can sleep in the dark at night.
Other than the three dogs that bark nonstop throughout the day, the Ping house is a great place to live.
As a group we have gone on fishing trips, gone sightseeing, gone out to eat and sometimes just stayed home to watch a movie. Both Adrian and I have enjoyed our time in Kenai, and that is due in large part to the family we are living with. And hopefully, our presence these last two months has made this a more exciting summer for the Pings.
But more important than the services they provide us, they have eliminated any of the awkwardness we may have felt coming into their home and have made us feel welcome.
I can speak for all of my teammates when I say that we are appreciative of everything our host families have done for us this summer. Future Oilers are truly stepping into a great situation in Kenai.
This column is the opinion of Chris Graziano, who is working part time for the Clarion this summer. Comments can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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