Open hearts, Open homes
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Open hearts, Open homes

Kevin had host families when he was in pro ball.

At every level of that journey, a family we didn’t know opened their home up to him and let him live with them for the duration of the season. Or, until he got moved.

They let him use their vehicles. They let him eat their groceries. They cooked for him, included him in their family outings and welcomed me to come visit.

One family threw me a graduation party when I finished my bachelors degree. They made me a cake and decorated the room with party hats and balloons. It’s a memory that I still treasure today.

Another family would take him and the other players they hosted out to eat and pick up the tab every single time. They attended every home game, made sure the players didn’t go without and never asked for anything in return. Just a signed ball to add to their collection. An entire hallway full of baseballs on a shelf of guys that had lived there previously. They’ve probably hosted well over 100 by now.

His AA family packed his bags and shipped them across the country for him when he got called up from there to AAA. They let his car sit in their driveway the majority of that season while he was gone. The shipping costs were just too much for us at that time.

We still keep in contact with just about all of them. Two of them have come through Pensacola and stopped for a visit.

Each of them blessed us in ways they will never understand. And in ways we can never repay them for because they took the burden of housing on a very, very tight budget off our shoulders and put it on their own.

Kevin and I have always said if we get the opportunity to host a player from our local pro team, we will.

A “pay it forward” action.

We almost did a few years back. But for our current situation and their current needs, it just didn’t line up.

Our chance came last night.

We opened up our home, shared our food and showed players the same kindness we were all those seasons ago.

We hosted the pitchers and catchers for a bullpen get together before the season kicks off this upcoming week.

At one point I was surrounded by 13 college guys, one Coach, our two kids and the dog.

The rotel dip we made lasted all of 10 minutes.

Some of them swang on the swing we built the kids for Christmas.

Some of them played on the trampoline with our two rascals.

Our dog, Lulu, was in pet heaven because she had 26 more hands to give her belly rubs.

They played Mario Kart and magnetic darts with the kids.

Chalk talked with coach on the back patio.

And just about every one of them came to ask me if they could help in the kitchen. Patty the burgers, cut the tomatoes and lettuce, take out the trash or do the dishes. Anything. They were eager to give back.

Mommas, if your man child was here last night – you should be very proud of the gentlemen you’ve raised.

My home was crowded.

It’s not huge to begin with.

The driveway was packed.

Trucks and cars all over the cul de sac.

But my heart was more so.

& my kids hearts – tapped out!

I was reminded just how sweet of a blessing it is to be the wife of a coach. And just how impactful being one can be if you’re willing to open your heart and doors to the “kids” your Coach coaches.

I hope they went home with full bellies and

a little bit of comfort. Maybe a sense of being home, surrounded by family and friends.

We sometimes forget it’s not easy to be away from what we’ve always known, with teammates we’ve just met, in a town we aren’t familiar with, juggling classes and practices and an upcoming season.

So any chance we as coaches families get to ease that weight, fill some tummies or provide some fellowship outside of the field we should take it.

I hope this is the experience all players get.

But sadly, I know it’s not.

I hope players feel welcomed into the programs they play for and that the coaches take their responsibility a step further to develop their players off the field. Mentor them and give them more than just plays for the game.

But lessons for life.

Yes.

Coaches have to coach.

They have to be hard on their team.

They have to set boundaries and hold their players and coaching staff accountable.

For many of them, their job depends on it.

If they’re losing on the field, they’re losing more than games. They’re losing their job.

But we should never let the fear of that overshadow what’s REALLY important.

We should never forget that being a coach is so much more than being the head of the ship.

It’s creating a team of leaders, not just doers.

Leaders that will eventually be leading their own families. Leading their own businesses or coworkers.

College is a step into adulthood but it doesn’t have to be a crash landing.

They may be my husbands players. But my kids see them as big brothers and we see them as family.

In 40 years, when they’re sitting around a table talking to their kids and grandkids about their college baseball days I hope moments like this stick out, too.

The little things.

The laughs my kids gave.

The loves my dog gave.

The chats about life they had with my husband.

Maybe even my heated blanket that became a topic of conversation when our daughter turned it on as they sat on the couch watching Nintendo battles.

I’ve never seen guys so amazed with a $30 Threshold blanket. But they were.

Little things like that.

Tucked away moments that remind them that they will always have a coach to call on in my husband.

One of them jokingly said, “Hey Coach, if I ever become homeless can I crash here?”

Without question. Yes.

I hope every player that’s ever been coached by mine knows that his phone is always on and his couch is always available.

10 years from now.

20 years from now.

40 years from now.

It doesn’t matter.

Our home is open.

Our couch is empty.

& the heated blanket will be waiting.