Each summer, vacationers come to the Cape in droves. Many pay a summer premium for the visit, staying in local hotels and inns. But some people are here not to vacation, but instead for seasonal work, for school, or for a special activity. A few summer programs offer these visitors housing. But not all can afford to, which means the burden of housing falls to Cape Cod families. Perhaps no organization relies on locals more than the Cape Cod Baseball League. But it’s not just the players who benefit from the experience of living with a host family. Cape Codders get a lot out of it, too.
Everyone who goes to Cape League games during the summer gets a taste of Americana. But families who host for the league, and the players who stay with them, get something more – new friendships that last long after the summer is over. Chris and Kerry Lawson know this. They’ve hosted Cotuit Kettleers players for six years. The Lawsons have a large family – five kids between crib and college. But they say the transition of adding a new person to the family each summer has been seamless.
“It’s one of those things where you turn around and say, why not one more?” says Chris Lawson.
Lawson says that the biggest adjustment each summer is just how much more food they buy. This season Drew Jackson, from California, is staying with them.
“These guys eat. Drew might be the eating champion of all the Kettleers that we’ve had. But the kids love it. They play wiffle ball together, Drew came out to help teach a little league team with me this year for our last game of the season. The integration progress is something that goes extremely smoothly.”
Having a baseball player in the house isn’t the only thing the Lawsons enjoy about being a part of the Kettleers host program. Kerry Lawson says that one of their favorite things to do in the summer is take the kids to the ballpark every night.
“We’ve gotten tied into a whole community here that we wouldn’t have known if we hadn’t gotten involved with hosting. It’s been a great way to come out every night in the summer and just have a good time. We’re not at home, they’re not in front of the TV, they’re just outside playing, and it just feels like a real old fashioned summer for them.”
Families like the Lawsons are essential for the League’s success. Finding low-cost housing on the Cape in the summer is nearly impossible. Luckily, the League doesn’t need to. Families who love the League are thrilled to have a baseball player stay with them. Players get a place to live, and hosts like Gabriele and Phil Bruce, who house Falmouth Commodores players, simply find that by the end of the summer, their family has grown by one more.
“The first kid walked in the house, gave me a big hug, and said, ‘Can I call you mom?’ That was it!” says Gabriele Bruce.
Steve Beane’s family in Plymouth has hosted Bourne Braves players for three years. Beane finds that for him, the best part of hosting is learning about different ways of life around the country.
“I just like the different cultures. Bringing people from the south and Midwest. I think our kids get exposed to different people and a little bit of a different culture, there’s not a lot, but there’s a lot of little things that are different, so that’s my favorite part of it really, is just meeting people from all over the country.”
The players who come to stay with new families for the first time often don’t know what to expect. Stephen Wrenn is from Georgia, and he’s staying with Steve Beane’s family. He says that for the first week, he was nervous.
“The first week was much different than the rest because that’s when I was still kind of being very careful about what I did. I remember asking them one night if I could go get a snack from the fridge and they both laughed.”
But players are happily surprised by the strong bonds formed over the course of the summer. Wrenn looks at staying with a host family as a way to learn a bit about different styles of family life.
“In my opinion each family has their own way, their own life style. My family, awesome, I’ve gotten to experience a lot of that, but this is a new one and I love it and they love having people over and they love cooking for people and they love serving people, and so that’s definitely a lot of stuff that I can pick from.”
Drew Jackson said that for him, one of the most important experiences of the summer is spending time with the Lawson family’s kids.
“It’s much different than living in a frat house back at school. It’s actually really cool. Just seeing how happy you can make little kids every day just by being in their presence, which makes me real happy being able to make these kids have a blast of a summer too.”
But of the many things that the players loved about their hosts, the one thing they all had in common was the food. Drew Jackson enthused about his host dad’s milkshakes.
“There’s too many things that count, but Chris makes a mean milkshake – we call em frappes out here. But he’s – after dinner and after he stuffs me and I swear I can’t pound one more calorie, he always offers to make one, and regardless of my answer it’s in front of me, and usually I’ll be able to put it down so…"
"I’ve yet to see him not put one down!" said Lawson.
"It’s awesome, being in the house – I feel at home. It’s my second home for sure,” concluded Jackson.
With friends and family gained, Cape Cod League hosts and their players say the summer isn’t just about baseball.
Correction: August 6th
The audio feature, a picture caption, and the article incorrectly stated the name of the baseball player staying with Chris and Kerry Lawson. His name is Drew Jackson, not Drew Johnson