John F. Russell: Finding a home on the field, and off, in the mountains of Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs — As a player at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, Jace Langen understands the importance of finding home plate in a baseball game.
But as he enters his second year as a member of the Steamboat Storm, the soon-to-be senior infielder also knows the importance of a home off the field. Last year, he was one of more than 20 players in Steamboat who competed in the Mountain West Collegiate Baseball League and stayed with host families.
This year, organizers once again hope the community will return to the plate and help the team get off the ground and gain a foothold. It’s an important step for the team but not an easy task, according to baseball enthusiast Dave Roy.
“It wasn’t easy getting the families last year, and it hasn’t been easy this year,” Roy said about getting homes for the team’s roster of 22 players. “This is a great program, and this is a great community. So many of the families that helped last year have returned to help us again, but some of them just don’t have the room or their circumstances have changed. We need a few more families.”
Roy likes the host family idea, because he thinks it makes the team more appealing for local fans, who have a chance to connect on another level with the team. He said it’s an excellent opportunity for families who have young baseball players at home who may want to pursue college baseball.
“Having a college player living under the same roof can provide a connection to the game, inspiration to a young player and a chance to learn what it takes to make it in a college program,” Roy said.
In an effort to make things easier for host families, the local team has broken the stay into two, three-week sessions. The first session will run from June 4 to 24. The second session begins June 25 and comes to an end with the season on July 16. However, if a family wants to, they can host a player for all six weeks of the season.
Roy said he has several families who have already volunteered, but he is still looking for 15 to 20 more to house the players for the season. He hasn’t hit the panic button yet, but with fewer than two weeks before players start arriving, he is starting to get a little anxious. He said the local team has explored other options such as getting dorm rooms at Colorado Mountain College or the Steamboat Mountain School, but those options are already full.
The team may have to explore finding condos for the players to live it, but with the it’s limited budget, the cost could threaten the team’s future in the valley.
“It’s a great experience seeing how other people live their lives differently from what I was used to growing up,” Langen said. “You learn that you need to be considerate and that you have to be flexible. You are living in someone else’s home, and I’m grateful that they opened their doors for me.”
Langen said his experience in Steamboat has been a good one, and he believes he has learned some lessons that will help him be more successful in the future.
“I think one of the biggest lessons I learned was that I needed to make sure that I cleaned up after myself,” he said. “I learned that it’s not always easy to live with someone that you don’t know that well, but if you do it the right way, it can be very rewarding.”
That’s the type of lesson that has nothing to do with baseball, but it’s one of the reasons Roy wants to see the Storm find success in a community like Steamboat Springs. Roy hopes that all the young men who come to Steamboat and play their hearts out for the town will discover a home right here in the mountains of Northwest Colorado.
Anyone who would like to help the team and host a player this summer should call Leigh Reece at 970-367-6777 or Roy at 970-819-6868.
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