The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

April 16, 2014

Mike Pound: Host families build relationships with Joplin Outlaws

JOPLIN, Mo. — When Missy and Wade Short agreed to serve as a host family for a member of the Joplin Outlaws, they knew they were helping a college baseball player. But what they didn’t know is that they would also find another role model for their son.

The Shorts, who live in Webb City, have a 14-year-old son named Briar who plays on a local traveling baseball team. Baseball was all Briar needed to connect with his temporary Outlaw brothers.

“Last year when he (the player) arrived, he pulled into our driveway, got out of his car and we met him, and then he asked if he could take Briar for ice cream and they bonded right way,” Missy said.

The Joplin Outlaws play in the M.I.N.K. Collegiate Baseball League, which is made up of nine teams scattered throughout Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas. The teams are made up of college baseball players looking to improve their game during the summer months.

This summer will mark the sixth season in Joplin for the Outlaws. Mark Rains is president and general manager of the team and he said that each summer local families are needed to provide a home away from home for members of the team. Rains said the players, who generally are between the ages of 19 and 21, tend to be pretty easy houseguests.

“Mainly what they do is they eat, they sleep and the play baseball,” Rains said.

Players will begin arriving in Joplin on May 26 and they will play their first game on May 29. The Outlaws first home game is May 31, Rains said.

The Outlaws will play nearly every night during the nearly two-month season, which means the players’ few moments of down time are mainly spent trying to rest up for their next game.

“They have their own cars, they’ve been on their own at college so they know how to take care of themselves,” Rains said.

Missy said that not only has her family developed close relationships with the two players they have already hosted, but they also have gotten to know the other members of the past teams. The connections her family has made the past two years have been priceless, Missy said.

“My son still keeps in contact with many of the players. I just wish we had a bigger house,” she said.

Missy said the bonds between her family and the players goes far beyond “what goes on on the field.”

Last fall, Wade’s mother passed away and Missy said she sent a text to the player the family had hosted and asked if he would reach out to Briar. The player responded immediately.

“They are mentors for my son off the field,” she said.

The Outlaws will play their home games this summer at Joe Becker Stadium. The Outlaws have 24 home games this season, and admission will be $3 for adults, while kids younger than 12 are free. Rains said the team will continue its tradition of raising awareness for area not-for-profit groups by having several special game nights.

“For example, we have events in honor or the Wounded Warrior Project and in honor of breast cancer awareness,” Rains said.

On Friday, May 2, and Saturday, May 3, the Joplin Outlaws will hold a fundraiser in the Food 4 Less parking lot, 2800 E. 32nd St. Outlaws will be selling ribs for $10 a slab.

“The ribs are hot and ready to go,” Rains said.

The ribs will be available from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on May 2, and from 10 a.m. until the ribs are gone on May 3.

If you would like to serve as a host family for a Joplin Outlaws player this summer or would like more information about the host family program, call Rains at 417-825-4218. You may also visit the Joplin Outlaws website at www.joplinoutlaws.com.

Do you have an idea for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at mpound@joplinglobe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.

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