MIDLAND, Texas – Everyone in the game was excited to see minor league baseball return this summer. It’s been challenging, however, coordinating living arrangements.
“Let’s see, hotel all spring training. Then, moved into an apartment for about a month,” said RockHounds pitcher Kyle Friedrichs while recalling his various stops this summer. “On the road for two weeks and then moved in with the host family once the rules changed.”
Recently, Major League Baseball has started to ease restrictions for host families although the league is still enforcing several protocols.
“Everyone who is eligible for the vaccine has to be vaccinated,” said RockHounds Director of Community Relations Rachael DiLeonardo. “We have to have a background check and also proof of vaccination.”
Throughout his career, Friedrichs has played for five different minor league teams.
“I will say – it was weird at first. I wasn’t used to that,” he said.
In a career highlighted by instability, the support host families offer is invaluable.
“They help cook. They help provide us with a roof over our heads,” said Friedrichs. “When we don’t have to think about that we can just go out and perform, do our jobs the best we can.”
“These guys aren’t major league players yet,” said DiLeonardo. “They’re not making that paycheck where it’s like, ‘Oh, I can just blow it away on housing.'”
The bonds built up over time can make a new city feel like home.
“They’re our second parents, pretty much. They come to all the games as best they can,” said Friedrichs.
“A lot of the guys will, if you have children – they’ll bring them up to the ballpark and they’ll play catch in the outfield with them,” said DiLeonardo. “They’ll take batting practice. They’ll be in the clubhouse and meet other players.”
The friendships developed with the players endure well after the end of the season.
“When they go up to AAA or ‘The Show’, they’ll actually go up to their games and keep contact with them,” said DiLeonardo.
“It’s almost like they pull you in and you’re one of their own,” said Friedrichs. “That’s a relationship you’ll never forget.”
In a typical season, around 90-95 percent of RockHounds players stay with host families, who volunteer for the program.
Those interested in becoming a host family can visit the RockHounds front office or email Rachael DiLeonardo (firstname.lastname@example.org) to receive an application form.