By Mike Pound
When I was in college, I took some time off from school to work in the oil fields of Oklahoma.
It was a good decision because, up until then, I wasn’t sure that college was for me. After several months in the oil fields, I decided that school wasn’t so bad.
While working in Oklahoma, I and two college buddies stayed in an old hotel in Pawhuska. We were told that at one time the hotel had been pretty famous. John Wayne stayed there, we were told. However, when we stayed at the hotel, its John Wayne days were well behind it.
For the most part, we enjoyed living on our own and working in the oil fields. We sort of felt like we were in charge of our lives. We sort of felt like we were finally adults, but — while we wouldn’t admit it to each other — we missed home. We missed home-cooked meals, and we missed the family atmosphere you get at home.
That’s what’s so cool about the host family program employed by the Joplin Outlaws. Mark Rains is the general manager of the summer collegiate baseball club, and he says host families give players a little taste of home while they are in Joplin.
While the idea of providing a place to stay for a college-age baseball player might seem a bit daunting and time-consuming, Rains said the typical Outlaw player isn’t hard to entertain.
Because the Outlaws play games almost every night during the two-month summer season, and because the team keeps busy with public service work, players pretty much are looking for a place to rest.
“Really they mostly sleep and play baseball,” Rains said.
This year, the Outlaws will play their home games at Joe Becker Stadium. Their home opener is Saturday, June 1. The Outlaws will be made up of 19- to 21-year-old college baseball players from across the country. The team will have a 40-game season, with 20 of those played at Joe Becker. The Outlaws play in a league featuring teams from Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas.
Karrla Morgan and her husband, Jim, have served as a baseball host family since 2006. Karrla said they were first approached about being a host family when Joplin was host to the USA Baseball tournament.
“We were skeptical at first,” Karrla acknowledged, “but it turned out to be a very positive experience.”
Over the years, Karrla said, her family members have grown quite close to the players who have shared their home. The family is still in contact with many of those players.
“They do become part of your family,” she said.
All players are required to have their own transportation, so host families don’t have to taxi their guests all over town. Basically, all that’s needed is a place for a player to sleep and eat some food.
Karrla said that most of the time, the players are just looking for a bit of home.
“They have been away at college, and then they come here,” she said. “It’s nice for them to feel they are part of a family.”
Of course, it helps to be a baseball fan. Karrla said she, Jim, daughter Kacy and son Kyle all are big Outlaw fans. Kyle, who is 15, serves as the team’s batboy, and the Morgans make it a point to attend all games, both home and away.
But, Karrla said, host families aren’t required to follow their lead and may attend as many or as few games as they want. What’s important, she said, is that the players are given a nice place to sleep and a chance to take in some home-cooked meals.
If you would like to serve as a host family for the Outlaws, visit the team’s website at www.joplinoutlaws.com or call Mark at 417-825-4218.
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