After spending all of the 2013 season living out of hotel rooms, the Frontier Greys are hoping they can call the Highland area home this summer.
The Greys, so named because they play no home games, thus always wear grey, are the result of the Frontier League team in London, Ontario, the Rippers, folding during the 2012 season. The league took the team over, and it played the rest of that summer on the road under the name, the Road Warriors. In 2013, the team took on the logo of the former Zanesville Greys, one of the founding members of the league and its first champion, and again played its entire schedule in other teams parks.
But living out of suitcases took its toll on the team. The Greys finished with a record of 33-62 and in last place in Frontier Leagues East Division. But to give it some more perspective, 24 of their 62 losses were by one run and the Greys never got to bat last as they were the road team in every single game. League officials are hoping this summer can be different, with the help of the people of Highland.
While the team will still have to play all its games as the visiting team, Frontier League representatives hope the Greys players and coaching staff will find local host families with whom they can stay with during the teams spring training, as well as days off and when the Greys are scheduled to play the three St. Louis-area Frontier League teams the Gateway Grizzlies in Sauget, the River City Rascals in OFallon, Mo., and Southern Illinois Miners in Marion.
Host families are necessary because, while the Frontier League is professional baseball, the salaries are not the same as in the big leagues. Most players make somewhere between $600 to $1,000 per month, plus daily meal money.
The host family program is kind of the backbone of what helps make the Frontier League work, and weve been doing it for 21 years in different towns, and weve always had good success with it, said Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee. Its one of the things that kind of binds our teams to their towns. The kids enjoy it. The families enjoy it.
When the league was looking for a central place for the Greys to sink roots, Gateway Grizzlies General Manager Steve Gomric thought of Highland first.
Highland was my recommendation, because I think the world of this community, and I think that it is a baseball community, Gomric said. It is centrally located, but it is a strong community that loves its baseball and has the facilities to do it, with Optimist Field (at Glik Park) and the Korte Rec Center. This is a great opportunity to do something special here.
The plan started to take shape last fall when Lee, along with Frontier League Deputy Commissioner Steve Tahsler went to Wayne Wirz, a member of the Highland Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission, and Mark Rosen, director of Highland Parks and Recreation, with the idea of Greys calling Glik Parks Optimist Field home field for the teams spring training.
Rosen said the idea was all positive for Highland. The spring training workouts would be open to the public, and they would not interfere with the high school baseball teams home games.
After listening to the leagues proposal, I thought that this could be a great deal for the city, our citizens and the department to showcase some talented ball players, our community, and be able to enhance the interest in baseball in Highland, Rosen said.
The spring training plan then developed into seeking host families locally.
From our initial conversations that weve had with a few people, we are finding out that they are very excited about it, and it could be a good, fun way to spend the summer, Tahsler said.
What serving a host family entails
About 12 to 15 host families are needed for the players and coaching staff. The players are 22 to 27 years old and typically right out of college. Once the season gets into full gear, the ballplayers will be plenty busy, playing 96 games in 108 days.
April 30 is when the players would be showing up. Spring training begins on May 1 and is a two-week process that will take place at Glik Park. The final regular season game is Sept. 4. So, commitment for host family would be a 13-14 week period, or 72 total nights.
Much like Major League Baseball during spring training, the players would work during the day and then be home at night. But it would change during the regular season when the players would basically be working similar to a second shift job, where they would be at home in the mornings before leaving for the ballpark in the mid-afternoon and then return home later at night.
Most of the players do not like to live alone and would prefer to have another player live with them with the host family. Gomric said that generally they want two ballplayers per home, because a lot of the players dont have cars, so they try to car pool.
Host families can receive tickets to usually any games that they choose.
Unfortunately, there are no cash benefits, and there never has been, but it is a way to further these kids careers and enhance the experience, and it is also a chance for the families to be a part of a professional baseball team and see what it is like, Lee said.
Lee said host families do not have to be limited to just Highland proper, but if there is someone from the neighboring communities such as Alhambra, Grantfork, Pierron, Marine, St. Jacob, Troy, etc. He said the Grizzlies have host families all the way from South St. Louis up to Edwardsville.
Gomric said the ideal host family is either the empty nester, somebody who has had kids and those kids are done with college, moved out and now the parents have the extra room or those families who have middle school-aged boys.
Gomric also stressed that The host family needs to set the rules with the player(s) right up front of what is acceptable what is not.
The message that I want to try to put out there for those that are interested in being a host family is that this is their roof and this is their rules that these players have to abide by, Gomric said. And if they are not abiding by your rules, you need to let us know. We try to match a family with a player the best we possibly can.
There are also employment opportunities that are available within the Greys organization for Highland-area people.
Positions that are available are: the position of host family director; a public relations position for an intern in college who is studying sports management, marketing, communications or broadcasting; an equipment clubhouse guy to oversee field operations for a ballplayer who is finishing up his senior year at one of the area colleges; and finally, an athletic training position for someone who is studying athletic training or medical tech field, or someone that is connected with an area hospital, such as St. Josephs.
These are things that can make this more of a positive experience for them, these families and the community itself, Lee said.
Contract the Greys
Anyone interested in serving as a host family for the Greys or who would like to seek one of the employment opportunities should contact Steve Tahsler, Frontier League deputy commissioner, at his office at (618) 215-4134 or via his cell phone at (708) 310-0510.