Baseball: The Universal Family
By Joe Nardini
The Don Mattingly World Series (DMWS) that the Jack Cust Baseball Academy (JCBA) hosted this past summer accomplished more than showcase some of the country’s best young baseball talent. Among other milestones, the week-long tournament gave further evidence that boys will behave in the storied ways popularized by Mark Twain, regardless of age and irrespective of geographic boundaries.
Of all the activities that took place on the field at JCBA, none signified the essential aspects of youth more than the antics and experiences of teenage and adolescent boys in their host families from August 8 through August 13, 2006.
Just ask some of the mothers of those host families.
The Host Moms who interviewed with NJB Magazine for this story – Tiffany Perangelo, Alison Runser, and Sue Johnston – unanimously observed that the hosting week for the teams, their boys, and them proved a “great bonding experience and a great learning experience.” Hence, they all wondered why more local families had not come forward to host players. Alison in particular noted that, “Sixty families were needed. Of all the families in Hunterdon County, you’d think that we’d be able to get what we needed, but only eighteen families volunteered.”
All agreed that JCBA would have to exert a greater effort next year to attract the necessary host families. The Moms also speculated that, when others learn what a great experience hosting out of town players was and how it benefited everyone involved, more local families will step forward in 2007.
Hawking an Autograph
One Mom who saw the value of hosting through the eyes of Luke, her youngest son, Linda Pizzico, explained that, “The conversations, actions, and fun moments our two visiting athletes brought into our home, especially with our three children, was something we won’t forget.”
Matthew Pizzico and Brother Luke Flanked by Teddy Katz and Greg Allen of the Pennsylvania Players at the DMWS barbecue
Tiffany’s ball playing boarders included Bobby Doran, 17 (pitcher) and Haden Waner, 17 (pitcher-infielder), both from the Dallas Patriots. They were like big brothers to Tiffany’s twelve year-old son, Auggie, and ten year-old son, Christian. Interestingly enough, Haden Waner descends from a well-known baseball genealogy, dating back to the days when the Waner brothers, Lloyd “Little Poison” and Paul “Big Poison” – Haden’s great uncles – played for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
A Baseball Family Connection
To the great delight of her son Tyler, Sue Johnston’s family played host to Brad Oates, 17 (pitcher-infielder), and Charlie Westmoreland, 17 (catcher), from the Dallas Patriots. Sue described both visiting players as “polite…disciplined…from religious families” who understood the privilege of traveling so far away from home to play in the tournament.
Being from an inland portion of Texas, Brad and Charlie were excited to see the ocean, which they did on an off-day from the DMWS when Sue took them to Point Pleasant. She described them as standing in awe of the “huge waves.” They also had a great time playing in the soy bean field on the Johnston farm, riding four-wheelers, and playing pingpong all week.
Amwell Valley Meets the Big Southwest
As though the Perangelo and the Johnston kids needed any help getting involved in mischief, their out-of-town guests proved more than capable of contributing to the effort. Tiffany’s DMWS guests enjoyed their I-Tunes and needed constant reminding to “call your parents,” just as any teenage boys do. Seeing the 9/11 Ground Zero site in New York City, and even Times Square, left them awestruck, a “healing experience” for them, as Mom Tiffany described it.
Given to conviction, the Dallas Patriots players had two slogans by which they live: “Train like an underdog, play like a champion, carry yourself like a winner,” and “Remember, Win or Lose, Have Fun!” Somehow, it doesn’t seem as though they needed the second of those two inspirational messages to remind them what they had come to Flemington to do.
Auggie, Tyler, Christian, and a Soy Bean Waner
Alison Runser marveled at the “awesome relationship” that her boys Connor, 12, and Colin, 10, had with their live-in ball players – her “rent-aboys,” as she described Mike Mulvey, 14, and Christian Wolasik, 14, from the Pennsylvania Players. Their polite manner, exemplified by respectful “Yes, Ma’am, No, Ma’am” salutations and by their general attention to orderliness disappeared after about three days, a reflective Mom Alison observed. “Amazingly, they, like my own boys, never had any dirty clothes that required laundering.” Still, she admitted that it was “the first time in twelve years (that she had) seen a made bed!”
The Runser boys and their Players guests bonded immediately, according to Alison. Among other activities, they all spent their down time fishing with Host Dad, Ned, at Hoffman Park in Bethlehem Township.
Christian, Mike, and Connor Sharing a Pre-Game Moment
Interestingly enough, Jim Basilone, head coach for the Pennsylvania Players, voiced the essential characteristic of the Host Family experience when he described the DMWS. Coach Basilone observed that the first-ever tournament held at JCBA displayed the best aspects of sportsmanship, “what baseball is all about.”
New Jersey Baseball could not agree more, both with the Host Moms and with Coach Jim. When played for the right reasons, baseball elicits the best human traits in all of us. It unites us and accentuates our commonalities, in an atmosphere of healthy competition and mutual respect.
The best of these traits surfaced in numerous ways and at various times during the Host Family week. Host Dad Greg Perangelo loaned his glove, a “family heirloom,” to Patriot boarder, Bobby Doran, which Bobby used in pitching a DMWS shutout victory for his team. In turn, Bobby and fellow boarder Haden Waner left special memorabilia with their host brothers, Auggie and Christian. Among them, Bobby left a T-shirt with his team’s slogan, “Train like an underdog, play like a champion, carry yourself like a winner,” and a baseball cap with the inscription, “Remember, win or lose, have fun!”
As much as anything else, these inspirational words to live and play by that Host Mom Tiffany believes will help her sons “learn how to exhibit a sportsmanlike attitude, no matter what.”
Bobby Doran, Christian and Auggie Perangelo, Haden Waner
Host Dad Fred Johnston “treated the boys as his own sons,” Mom Sue said proudly. She “took off work all week,” and “Fred left work early to spot deer with the boys at night, using flashlights.”
Not to be outdone, Host Dad Ned Runser got over his initial reluctance to be a host family, but decided that they “would work through it…and always left work in time to attend the DMWS night games.”
Over the 2006-07 off-season, NJB will work with Host Moms from across the area and with JCBA staff to spread the word to more families about the special bonds and the special memories resulting from the hosting experience. We cannot think of a more appropriate way to celebrate baseball as a universal family than by extending one’s family to contribute to this unique, once-in-a lifetime opportunity.
Interested families should call Keith Dilgard, JCBA General Manager, at 908-284-1778.