Over the past six summers, dozens of families have opened their homes to members of the MV Sharks, an amateur baseball team on the Island comprised of collegiate baseball players from around the country, The Sharks compete in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL), a baseball showcase summer league in New England.
These players, mostly 18 to 21 years old, are well-above-average players and top-quality people, according to those who would know, the families with whom they live. “They are great kids, focused and grateful to have a home away from home while they work at their dream,” said Dianne Powers, a West Tisbury resident, who has hosted up to five players a year for the past five seasons, and is looking forward to season six.
Ms. Powers, recently retired as Dukes County register of deeds, enjoys the character and the relationships hosting provides. “They stay in touch. One of my first-year kids is thinking about moving to the Island. Another kid actually came, off-season, to a dog show where we were showing one of our Great Danes,” she said.
When you think about it, the FCBL is a feel-good story from the get-go. You’ve got kids who have eaten and slept baseball from tee-ball on up, earned a chance to play college ball, and were good enough to be recruited by the seven-team FCBL to showcase their talent for the larger world, including pro scouts. They are hoping the magic will happen.
Tad Gold is an Island guy for whom the magic happened. The Sharks general manager was Division 3 national collegiate player of the year at Endicott College, and a veteran of three Sharks seasons when the Baltimore Orioles came calling in 2014.
Mr. Gold spent nearly three seasons in the O’s minor league system before coming back to run the Sharks operation. “I lived with host families in pro ball, and it made a difference. Just eating dinner with them, talking over their day and my day. It allowed me to feel comfortable, to focus on baseball, and also to have family time away from the game,” he said last week.
Lining up host families is the most difficult part of his job in an environment in which housing is always tight, and more so during the summer rental season, he says. “Maybe the perfect fit is a family with kids involved in baseball who can benefit from an athletic or an academic mentor. These players are smart, and go to really good schools,” he said.
The Sharks have integrated into Island life, making contributions to Island institutions such as Camp Jabberwocky and Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, and sponsoring pregame and in-game promotions at the Shark Tank, a Shark-built field at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in Oak Bluffs.
“You won’t make a lot of money at this,” he said. There is a $500 stipend, season passes to Shark games, and Sharks swag and recognition at games. There are other benefits for families like the Alibertis, with two boys, Andrew and Keaton, who have starred recently in Island Little League play. “Our first player was Bob Carbaugh, a pitcher at Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania in 2013. It was fun for our boys. Bob was a great person, threw [pitched] with them, gave them a little advice, souvenirs, and even gave Keaton his glove,” Sarah Aliberti recalled this week.
“He was so easy and grateful. Such a good kid. He went out and about with us, even attended birthday parties. His dad and his girlfriend came to visit when he was here, and we’re still in touch with him. And it’s fun to go to the Sharks games and root for your player,” she said.
“Having these players adds a vibrancy to the summer,” Ms. Powers said of her home, normally inhabited by four large Great Danes, and for several summer months by four large baseball players. “We are not required to feed them, but I like to make sure they eat. I get a lot of gas points in summer at Stop and Shop.
“Actually, I get to be the recipient of all the good parenting they’ve had,” she laughed.
Anyone interested in hosting a Sharks player or intern can contact Tad Gold at 508-627-1795 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. About 15 additional host families are needed in May before the 2017 season begins on June 2. Complete information on the host family program is available at mvsharks.com.