The Host Family Program is a time-honored tradition in Babe Ruth League and it is one of the most important and influential aspects of an international baseball player's experience at the Cal Ripken Major/70 World Series. The Host Families are proud to open up their hearts and homes to the players and introduce them to American culture, both on and off the field. Their focus is always on baseball participation, friendship and cultural exploration for the players and families traveling with the international teams.
When they're not playing baseball, the young players are spending time getting to know their "adopted" families. In most cases, these kids really do not know much about America or Aberdeen, Maryland. They learn so much from their Host Families and World Series experience.
What does it mean to be a Host Parent...the tasks are few, and the rewards are abundant. In addition to housing, Host Families are responsible for meals, transportation, laundry, and making sure the kids' stay is enjoyable and memorable. The rewards are many, including the excitement of new family members, a new social and cultural experience for their family, added enjoyment and fun from supporting and rooting for their adopted children's team as well as being able to celebrate when their adopted children make a great hit, a daring catch and win a game. The only disadvantage is having to say goodbye to their adopted children once the tournament is over.
As Team Canada made its way to Maryland for the Cal Ripken World Series, they were welcomed by five local families who were serving as Host Parents. Each family was assigned two or three players.
Howie and Terri Lewis, captains of the Canada Host Families, returned for their ninth year overall and their sixth year hosting players from Canada. The Lewises had the privilege of hosting Michael Soroka, a 2010 Team Canada alum of the Cal Ripken World Series, who was just drafted to the Atlanta Braves. "We've enjoyed the camaraderie because we don't have any kids," said Howie. "But every year we have about three or five players at our house and we keep in touch with them. We're close with the coach and it really is a good relationship both ways."
Michael and Andrea Killmond, who were also a returning host of players from Canada, enjoyed watching the games and getting to show the kids around Maryland.
For two families, this year was their first time hosting players from New Zealand. So what made them decide to host international players? A love for baseball combined with a passion for sports is what led both the Schriver and Truszkowski families to host players.
Charlene Schriver, team captain, was always meant to host international players, especially those from New Zealand. Her son was the batboy last year for New Zealand, which is the reason her family got involved. They were at the Cal Ripken World Series every day, so as a family, they decided to become hosts. "Our son was treated as a little brother to the team. He also made friends with some of the boys and still talks with them through my social media accounts," Charles said. "As a Host Family, we enjoyed making this trip an amazing experience for the Kiwis."
For Mark Truszkowski, his long-held love for baseball is what drove him to volunteer as a Host Family. As a collegiate player who eventually became an instructor for Ripken Baseball, Mark decided it was the right time to become a Host Family. "Now with children of my own, it felt like a good time to expose them to an international experience through the fun of baseball," Mark said.
Although their journeys were different, these families arrived at the same destination: hosting Team New Zealand for the 2015 CRWS and experiencing traditions from around the world. There is a first for everything, but these families are certain they will continue to host players again in the future.