Lake Elsinore Storm Host Family: A New Adventure.
Anyone that knows us knows how much we LOVE the game of baseball. Little did we know that we would one day be a host family to the future of Padres baseball.
Matt grew up a New York Mets fan and I grew up a Philadelphia Phillies fan. My grandfather could find baseball any time of the year to watch even in the days before DVR. He was a well known pitcher in our area.
These days I’m more a Mets fan than anything. Matt has baseball on every day during the season. We attend Mets games when and wherever we can be it with the 7 Line Army or the San Diego Mets Fanbase.
From 2014-2016, we were season ticket holders for the San Diego Padres. We even got to go to the 2016 All Star Game and Home Run Derby last year!
The local baseball team to us is the Single A Minor League team for the Padres, the Lake Elsinore Storm.
One day on facebook Matt came across a post looking for interested persons to apply to be a host family for the Storm.
What does it mean to “host” a player with the Lake Elsinore Storm?
Minor league players make so little; at this level about $1,000/month, only during the months of play. Because of this, housing is hard to come by and not cheap.
The Storm has a volunteer program that involves families hosting players in their home for free, as a host family. Think of exchange students but adult athletes. You do get free game entry at home games but even better than that, you get to know some pretty great young men.
We talked about it, and didn’t see any cons to this opportunity at all. We contacted the woman in charge who sent us some guidelines and an application.
Following that, we would have to have our home checked out. This is to make sure we have a proper sleeping area for the player and that he has access to space in the fridge and pantry. This is also to make sure we have a clean and acceptable home and to meet the Host Family Coordinator. We went through all of that and eagerly anticipated the start of baseball season.
The season was to start while we took our trip to Australia. We knew we wouldn’t receive a player immediately. What we didn’t expect was that we would have a player within a week of our return. We got back on April 14th, and on the 19th I got a text from the Host Family Coordinator, Dee. She had a player for us. She gave us his name and phone number. I texted him that day. He said he would be ready to come to our home the next morning before practice.
So I cleaned, and I cleaned….
The room was already clean of course. I was so excited that we were meeting our very first player that I cleaned the room again. The bedding was changed again, blinds were wiped down, windows now sparkled… I wanted everything to be PERFECT.
The next morning our new player texted me. He was staying with another host family about a mile from us, but they had a family situation so they could no longer house a player.
Matt was like a little kid for the past 24 hours. A lifelong baseball fan, hosting a possible future major leaguer in our home. How insane is that?
Our First Lake Elsinore Storm Player.
Our new player loved his room, and was very excited to learn that the bathroom was right across the hall. He liked that we lived within a reasonable distance from the stadium, we have a pool and two adorable dogs.
This young man’s name was Joey Lucchesi, a Northern California kid who graduated from Southeast Missouri State last year. He’s a starting left handed pitcher for the Lake Elsinore Storm. Incredibly nice guy, very passionate about the game, very determined to do as well as he possibly can.
That weekend we had our first pre-game tailgate with the other host families. We met a few other couples and got to meet Dee’s husband, plus some of the Booster Club members.
The Storm Booster Club is a social club, made up of passionate baseball fans who want to support the future of the Padres organization. They pay a yearly fee, and the club itself runs fundraisers like 50/50 or pass the hat.
What’s Pass the Hat?
If a pitcher strikes out the side (strikes out all three batters) or a hitter hits a home run, the Booster Club passes buckets around the stadium to collect money. The money then goes directly to the player. This is something the players really enjoy as an incentive to play the best possible game they can.
We quickly learned that not only was Joey a great guy on the inside, but also an amazing pitcher. We enjoyed watching him start once a week or so and traveled to the two away fields nearby: San Bernadino and Rancho Cucamonga. He even had the opportunity to pitch against some major league players that were on rehab. We were proud to be his host family.
Mostly keeping to ourselves, we attended a few more events with the other host families and booster club members. We were new and figuring all of this out.
I did start yelling and posting on my instagram account “That’s my kid!” when Joey would pitch. This caused some confusion I’m sure to other fans.
Joey’s parents came to visit in June. We were so delighted to meet the people who raised such a wonderful young man. A wonderful couple who raised this polite well mannered person I referred to as my “summer son.”
And then there were two….
At the end of June Joey came home one night and informed us that his friend David had been called up to the Storm. He was coming from the mid-A level Padres, the Fort Wayne Tincaps. Joey asked if maybe David could also stay with us. We had an extra bedroom, and no plans to have any other visitors for the rest of the summer. Neither of us had an issue with a second player, so we said yes, why not!
I looked David up on the minor league baseball app and learned he was from the Pittsburgh area. A Pennsylvania kid like us! Not only that, but he attended Lafayette College…Matt went to Lehigh University and their big football rival is no other than Lafayette College. This entertained Matt of course and he was ready for some joking around.
Can we have two players?
I texted Dee to see if this was something we could do.
It was our first year and I didn’t want to step on any toes and take a player away from whoever was next to get one. She told me there were currently no openings for families for a player without a vehicle so that worked. I had been driving Joey to the field at first, and then started letting him use my car. Our next door neighbors joined the host family program as well and their player, Jesse Scholtens, would also drive their car to the field with Joey. It was nice to be able to split driving duties.
After Dee said it was a go that David could come stay, I got his number from Joey. I let him know we were ready whenever he was. The upstairs room was prepared which Joey quickly claimed after noticing it was slightly larger, but had a much bigger bathroom.
The next day I picked up David at the hotel.
Our new player’s name was David Bednar, a right handed relief pitcher. Very nice, and thankfully a sense of humor because Matt met him in a shirt with the word “LAFAYETTE” on the front (David’s college). On the back it says “BECAUSE NOT EVERYONE CAN GET INTO LEHIGH” (Matt’s college).
So here we were, a couple in their thirties, no children of our own, hosting two 20-something professional baseball players. These players, who I then referred to as my “children.” Some of our friends thought we were CRAZY! Inviting these strangers into our homes. To me it was like hosting an exchange student. The wonder and intrigue of having a new family member in your home for a short time hopefully making a lifelong connection.
David arrived on June 29th. The next night the boys came home from their game and let us know that Joey had been called up to AA. While we were excited for him, we were sad to say goodbye to our very first player. Joey left us on July 1st to head to the AA San Antonio Missions.
My kid saves games.
We quickly learned that David too was an amazing pitcher. It wasn’t long before I felt comfortable enough to scream “That’s my kid!” when they brought him in during a game.
With David being from Pennsylvania, I figured he may be missing some food from home. One day when he would be home somewhat early after a day game, I decided it would be Pennsylvania Food Day. I made Halupki, Halushki, and Pierogi. He LOVED it!!! Comfort food from home on the other side of the country?!?
With David being a relief pitcher, he pitched more often that Joey did, so we found ourselves at more games. What a great summer it had become.
The players don’t get many days off during the season. When they did, they would hang out, go to dinner, the movies, the beach. I’m sure they really appreciated days off in July and August especially when temperatures are in the triple digits. David and Jesse would enjoy time at the pool when not with their teammates.
Making New Friends
It also wasn’t long until our neighbors and friends all knew David. They were enjoying this experience almost as much as we were! We started to get to know a few of the other host families as the season progressed. This was great, as we didn’t really know many people.
We were lucky enough to meet David’s family as well, his parents, brother, and sister. We learned that his brother and sister are amazing athletes too. Both are pitchers for their respective baseball and softball teams. Amazing athletes are in the family genes I guess! How lucky were we to get two amazing players on and off the field with amazing families? Every day we felt even more lucky that we were able to do this.
September came and it was time to say goodbye. We were saddened to see the season end, and look forward to 2018!
Player Stats for Joey Lucchesi and David Bednar:
Are you a baseball fan? Do you attend any games? Let us know your favorite team(s) in the comments below!!!