Two Gator baseball players got a rare opportunity last summer: live with complete strangers while playing with Division I athletes.
Catcher Mark Lindsay and pitcher Peter Reyes both had this chance. Volunteer families housed them for approximately three months, while providing food, shelter and transportation.
“It was definitely strange at the beginning, but I got used to it,” said Lindsay. “I like doing it, it is a great experience. Of course I would do it again.”
While Lindsay was playing for the Palm Springs POWER baseball team, he stayed with a family of two for the entire season. Allan and Joanne Horwitz provided Lindsay with everything that he would need.
The couple, both die hard baseball fans, were eager to open their home to young players who were getting started in their baseball career.
“We do it because we want to help any upcoming baseball personnel,” said Joanne. “It is a great experience and we love doing it.”
Lindsay was provided a separate place from their actual house. He was fed everyday and lived almost as if he wasn’t there. Lindsay would only see the Horwitzs in the morning and spend the rest of the day at the baseball field.
Host families are strictly on volunteer basis. Andrew Starke, president and owner of Palm Springs POWER, meets with the families to assure that there is a healthy and clean environment for the players to live in.
No financial compensation is given to families, but they are provided tickets to games to watch the players they house.
“These families do it out of the goodness of their heart,” said Starke. “They open their arms completely to these players.”
Starke ensures that every player has the right fit in the host family. Starke looks for families that have younger kids to provide them with role models. The collegiate baseball players bring that.
“This is an opportunity for older baseball players to be a role model for the youth, to give them advice or to spend time with them,” said Starke.
Reyes joined Lindsay on the POWER team, but Reyes’ host family cared for him differently. The family would leave Post-it notes around the house for him to read that would say, “Here’s your food” or “Have a good day.”
Reyes lived with a single mother that had a younger boy. It was the first time the host family has done this for any baseball player.
When Reyes was not playing on the field, he would spend quality time with the host son playing catch and providing pointers to help the Little Leaguer become a better player.
“It was really hard to be away from home,” said Reyes. “(But) It was really cool to have that little kid around. I just got to be there for him and that was great.”
Both Reyes and Lindsay got to celebrate at the end of the season as POWER won their third league championship in a row. Lindsay ended the season with a batting .328, while Reyes finished with a 2-0 record and a 1.21 ERA.
Fellow Gator teammate, Grady Espinosa, was also able to play in the same league as Reyes and Lindsay, but unlike them, Espinosa was able to stay with his own family.
“The team was local, so I could stay with my family,” said Espinosa. ““It was really cool that I got to play on the same team with my younger brother.”
Espinosa’s younger brother, Greg Espinosa, plays for the Orange Coast College baseball team during the regular season.
Although Espinosa did not get to have the same experience as Lindsay and Reyes, he did get to play his own teammates in the league.
“It was a relaxed environment for us,” said Espinosa. “We just got to go out there and do what we love.”