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Mainers’ Host Families Enjoy Rewarding Experiences

Simpson family with Mainer’s catcher Stevie Berman,

The Simpson family with Mainer’s catcher Stevie Berman, who they hosted during the 2014 season.

Photo: Stephanie Simpson

By Renée Morin

Baseball has long been called “America’s Pastime.” If this is true, then “Sanford’s Pastime” is watching the Sanford Mainers play at Goodall Park. Since 2002, college baseball players from all over the country have come to Sanford to play for the Mainers. That begs the question, “Where do they stay?” While some players can drive home or stay with relatives, the rest are housed by Sanford-Springvale residents. The Sanford Springvale News interviewed Host Family Coordinator Josh Ouellette and longtime host family member Stephanie Simpson to learn more.

Stephanie Simpson and her husband, Richard Simpson, have lived in Sanford for 17 years, ever since she fell in love with Maine on a visit to meet her future in-laws. The pair have three children, stepdaughter Jolie (20), son Richie (17), and daughter Savannah (13). They have acted as a host family for the Mainers every season since 2013 except for the canceled 2020 season.

The Simpson family decided to take up hosting after receiving reassurances from their friends that hosting was “not as hard as you would think,” and determining that their kids were at a good age to handle another member of the household. The fact that their son Richie also played baseball played a part as well.

The family has since hosted players from across the country, including players from New Jersey, California, Kansas City, South Carolina, Massachusetts and New York. Simpson has kept in touch with most of these players via social media. She described receiving texts from former players on Mothers’ Day and her birthday. She also explained how she liked to witness the players starting their lives outside of baseball and watching them grow as human beings, with the first player the family hosted in 2013 now married and they have a child.

As for the hosting itself, she has greatly enjoyed the experience, describing the players as friendly, appreciative, respectful of her home and rules and having good manners. She shared fond memories of her players including tubing with her kids, getting a picture of everyone riding on the log flume at Funtown-Splashtown each year and a humorous incident where a player flooded the kitchen with bubbles after having mistakenly used Dawn dish soap instead of dish detergent. She has also enjoyed meeting the players’ families at the social events held by the Mainers.

One player, who Simpson says left a big impression on her son, was catcher Stevie Burman, who would play catch and soccer with the kids. Her son Richie cried when the player had to leave at the end of the 2014 season. Burman signed a bat for Richie, which he slept with for months afterwards.

When asked if she would recommend hosting to anyone else, Simpson replied, “absolutely.” She said the Mainers were always looking for new host families, and if people have questions, they should reach out to the Mainers’ staff. She described the players as good role models for kids and said that hosting them was a heartwarming experience and like having sons across the country. She affectionately referred to the players as her “summer sons.” For Simpson, the pressures on her own time were not much of an issue, because the players are also very busy and just need a place to sleep. As an added bonus for the entire host family, they receive season passes to watch their players in action.

Some families might wonder whether there could be trouble with players following household rules. Simpson says she has not had any problems but if any do arise, families can contact the host family coordinator. She referred to the Mainers as a “very supportive organization” regarding any issues that come up.

When asked about the vetting process for players, Ouellette explained that to play college baseball, players must be in good standing with their school and players’ coaches and Mainers’ staff members talked prior to any decision. Players must also sign the player handbook.

Ouellette says that he wants to combat concerns associated with hosting which might discourage potential volunteers. Many people are under a mistaken belief that hosting is a major commitment that requires all sorts of free time. He explained that this is not true and many of the host families have full-time jobs and busy lives themselves.

The criteria to be a host family entails having a spare bedroom or other adequate sleeping quarters like a finished basement, access to a bathroom and kitchen and a safe, clean, and healthy living space. Transportation and food are taken care of by the Mainers, though having some food available in the fridge or pantry is encouraged. He emphasized that players will be busy elsewhere so there is no need to change your day-to-day routine.

“The experience is what you make of it. You don’t have to change your life to do this,” said Ouellette.

For more information on becoming a host family, visit the Sanford Mainer’s website.

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