For elite baseball players, Capital District becomes summer home
Every summer, cars are packed to the brim, bags are stuffed into overhead compartments and train seats are filled with fidgety legs as the excitement of travel takes over. The sun-filled months are a chance for many to relax and recover from grueling work schedules or busy semesters. For thirty college baseball players from around the country, their bags will be packed for Albany in the hopes of taking another step towards their dream to becoming Major League Baseball players.
For the third season, the Albany Dutchmen will field a team of elite college baseball talent. Now a part of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League (PGCBL), the Dutchmen are one of eight teams that will give these players the opportunity to play in front of thousands of local fans, as well as a contingent of Major League scouts.
With their cars gassed up and plane tickets booked, the only question for these young men is where they’ll be able to rest their heads at night.
Like many similar leagues, the Dutchmen rely on local families to open their homes to one, or more, of these players each summer. It enables these young men to have a place to call home for two months, but it also has been known to be a valuable experience for the local family as well. Players become part of their families, explained Dutchmen Host Family Coordinator, Denise Polsinelli. `Additionally, most of the host families become a close group of friends themselves. It really is a great and memorable experience for all involved.`
This year, through the continued relationship with the City of Albany and the College of Saint Rose, the Dutchmen have moved their home games to brand new Bellizzi Field at the Plumeri Sports Complex. It’s a move that will keep the Dutchmen close to their supportive community, while also providing easy access to games, as the stadium sits at the foot of I-787 and next to Exit 23 on the NYS Thruway. `Moving so close to the highway will make it easier for everyone to attend games this summer,` admitted Dutchmen Vice President and General Manager, Jason Brinkman. `Bringing your young kids to the game and watching the players your hosting in action is really one of the great perks of becoming a Host Family.` All host families receive free season tickets.
Last summer, Linda Haughney, hosted Dutchmen players, Kasceim Graham and Shane Stancill, and saw first-hand how valuable the experience could be. `We have seven grandchildren and they loved to attend the games, chase after foul balls and then hang out afterwards with ‘the big guys,’ as they called them.` The players not only became mentors to her grandchildren, but became full-fledged members of the family. `We had real family participation with them,` she explained. `They went with me to my company picnic and shared their experiences with everyone.`
Many times, the relationships don’t end as the summer draws to a close. Being a Host Family can provide a unique opportunity to build a relationship with a future Major League Baseball player, following their progress and attending their games through the minor leagues. `I keep in contact with our former players once a month,` admits Mrs. Haughney. `They were great guys.`
`It can really be a tremendous opportunity for families with young athletes,` suggested Mr. Brinkman, `These are the best college baseball players in the country, and who better for a young player to learn from than a college player who knows what it takes to keep the dream of playing baseball alive?`
Yet, as the summer draws nearer, the Dutchmen are still looking for a few more willing Host Families. `In our first two years we were able to find some great host families,` explained Mr. Brinkman. `The problem is that it always came down to the last instant. We just want to make sure these young men have a place to call home when they’re away from their family and friends.`
The Dutchmen ask for any interested Host Families to contact Host Family Coordinator, Denise Polsinelli, to find out more about how to become involved. She can be reached by phone at (518) 369-5093 or by email at [email protected] Information can also be found on the website at www.dutchmenbaseball.com or by following the team on Twitter @DutchmenPGCBL .“