A Family Affair!
Billets + Players = Riverhawks Home Stays!
Erin Harsch works at the Edmonton International Airport but it was a message she received away from the office that changed her family’s flight path last summer.
“We’re very good friends with the Kautz family,” says Erin, “and they really showed us the way and really promoted what a great opportunity there was to have your family involved with such a great community organization like the Riverhawks.”
Erin had been asking about the Edmonton Riverhawks Home Stay program and the Kautzs, who billeted pitcher KJ Ward, couldn't say enough good things about the experience. So Erin, husband Brad and children, Trey and Kenna, booked themselves in and jumped on board, opening their doors to provide a home away from home for Graham Seltzer, a lanky right handed pitcher from Vancouver.
“I think we got more out of that experience than even Graham did,” says Erin glowingly.
The family affair saw them in the backyard playing wiffle ball and sitting around the fire with Graham - as least when they saw him! Graham was often coming home after games when everyone was asleep and the family was commonly heading out the door in the morning before he woke up. Brad Harsch says the home stay created very little turbulence in the family’s routine.
“It wasn’t a big commitment, really. When he’s here, we’re still going about our daily lives with work and children’s activities. It wasn’t an inconvenience at all.”
The Harsch family loved going to the ballpark to watch Graham in action but Erin explains you don’t have to be a big baseball fan to be a great billet.
“You don’t have to be connected to baseball to do this. You don’t have to have a family to do this. You could be an elderly couple or a young couple who just want to welcome someone into their home."
The players share the billets’ passion for the program.
“It gave me a really great family feeling,” said Brendan Loeppky, a Riverhawks pitcher who billeted with the Leah Gregg family. “I wasn’t just there to eat and sleep. I was actually able to build a relationship with my host family and, especially, the kids. It was like I was at home.”
“It’s really great for the players,” says Riverhawks managing director, Dr. Randy Gregg. “We really want to give them an experience in our community. And the families get a great experience. They have a chance to get to know the players and they get to come and cheer at all the games so it’s really a win-win.”
The Riverhawks provide billets with a monthly stipend as well as season tickets.
“We don’t want (players) staying in apartments, we want them staying with families,” adds Dr. Gregg. “We want to give them the best experience possible so that when they do come back to the West Coast League they want to come back to Edmonton.”
“Some of the greatest experiences were for Trey, who also plays ball,” recalls Erin. “Graham would come out to his practices. That was really cool.”
That memory is still vivid in her son’s mind.
“He threw bullpen for us, so we had to hit off him. He threw me a curveball,” remembered Trey, whose response when asked if he could hit it was a resounding, “No!”
It all made for memories for a lifetime and left the Harsh family ready to sign up again for a summer adventure right at home.
NB: Anyone interested in finding out more about the Riverhawks Home Stay program can email firstname.lastname@example.org!