11 August 2006

Skala: A home run

It's hard to believe another Cape League baseball season is winding down.

Many of the players already have said goodbye to their host families and are heading home or back to college. The season wraps up this week with playoffs and the championship.

Most folks know all about the famous major league players who got their start in this league formed more than 100 years ago. There's a long list of current and former major league ballplayers who called Cape Cod home for a summer or two.

But what may not be so obvious are the lasting bonds forged over the course of a summer between the players and their host families. I got to witness one this summer between my neighbors and their athlete who traveled from California to play for the Hyannis Mets.

At first he was everything our neighbors didn't want - a quirky, possibly arrogant pitcher from the West Coast. Yet as I watched from a distance I quickly learned he was everything they hoped for - courteous, caring and a genuinely nice kid.

For a short time, he became the son they never had. I even heard him boasting after one game about his host "mom" and "dad" and how "awesome" they were. They helped him find summer work, loaned him the family car and instituted curfews, just like any parent would do with their college-age child.

He even started having three or four ballplayer buddies hanging out at the house, playing Ping Pong in the garage until midnight. Their goodbye celebration Saturday included a barbecue with steaks and lobsters for the regulars. Each player marveled at the experience they had this summer and couldn't wait for their invitation to come back next year.

It was a real pleasure to watch this relationship grow over these few short months. It made me realize it is just one more reason this has become the premiere league for summer college ball.

Mark Skala is editor in chief for Community Newspaper Company on Cape Cod.

By Mark Skala