Before going home with his host family, Sanford Mainer Nick Lovullo signs a few more autographs at Goodall Park in this 2014 BDN file photo. People in the Sanford area act as hosts, free of charge, for the duration of the season. Credit: Troy R. Bennett | BDN

The Sanford Mainers organization is making its annual pitch for host families to welcome baseball players into their homes this summer.

Helen Hajny, the chair of the baseball team’s board directors, is hoping that enough locals will step up to the plate to offer places to stay for as many as 20 players. So far, host families have been found for around 10 players who will be in Sanford for the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s upcoming season.

A person or couple or whole family can welcome as many players into their homes as they’d like, according to Hajny.

“Last year, I had seven,” she said. “The more you get, the more fun you have.”

The players will arrive in Sanford to play ball in early June – the home opener at Goodall Park on Roberts Street will be against the Valley Blue Sox on the seventh – and will be in town through July . . . or early August, if they make the playoffs and go the distance.

A baseball player should be provided with one room in a home and with a bed – the Mainers organization can help provide the latter, if necessary, Hajny said. Hosts will be responsible for feeding the ball player staying at their home, as well.

“You basically bring them into your own home and treat them as one of your own,” Hajny said.

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The benefits are a grand slam, according to Hajny. Hosts get season tickets to see the Mainers play all summer long, and they also get a free, two-month membership at the Sanford-Springvale YMCA. As well, the children in host families get one free week at the baseball camp that the Mainers will offer at Benton Park this summer.

Best of all, Hajny said: the connections hosts make with the players.

“It’s a great experience,” Hajny said. “It’s like having a huge extended family across the country. We have a bunch of sons.”

And sometimes those Mainers go on to play Major League Baseball. James Bourque, one of those “sons” who stayed with Hajny at her home, now plays for the Washington Nationals. Another, Nick Kuzia, plays for the San Diego Padres.

People interested in hosting a Mainer this summer can call 207-324-0010, to be put in touch with Host Family Coordinators Joshua and Sarah Ouellette.

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Two local hosts, Jason St. Jean and Steven Cabana, both recommend welcoming a member of Team Moose into your home.

St. Jean and his wife, Erin, and their children, Austin and Emma, once hosted five players at their home over a period of four consecutive summers.

“It was amazing,” said St. Jean, who served as the Mainers’ assistant general manager during his final year on the organization’s board of directors. “The experiences for both my kids – especially for my son, who loves baseball – was fantastic.”

St. Jean describes the ball players as role models, driven to succeed with a career in baseball, young college students “who are giving up a whole summer to come to a city they don’t know to play baseball.” Such guests always found time to play catch with his children and be a part of their lives, St. Jean added.

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St. Jean also said that players who stay with local families are always grateful for the hospitality, for a place they can call their home away from home while they play ball.

“They don’t forget those families that help them out along the way,” St. Jean said. “They’ll all be very appreciative of all you do. They’ll become like family.”

Cabana has hosted 34 players over a period of 13 years – and seven or eight of them “I had the pleasure of hosting for two summers,” he said. He called the experience of hosting Mainers “enjoyable, memorable, and rewarding.”

“I found the players to be grateful for what I provided them, thankful for the opportunity to be here in Sanford for a summer, and respectful of my home and rules,” Cabana said. “I’ve told many people that I’ve received far more from hosting than I’ve provided.”

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Cabana said that he has made friends with the players and their families, all of whom hail from all over the country. He said he also has made new friends here in Sanford, as a result of meeting other host families in the community.

Cabana said the most rewarding aspect, though, is when his “summer sons” call him to tell him they’ve gotten drafted into the big leagues, or are getting married, or are expecting a child, or that their child has been born.

“It has been true every year that a player arrives at my home in early June a stranger but leaves as a part of my family come August,” Cabana said.

Cabana encourages people to “open their homes and hearts to these 2019 strangers due to arrive in a few months.”

“I promise the experience and the rewards of hosting will impact your life forever,” he said.