Opening your home to family or close friends for an extended stay is usually no problem.
You’re happy to do it. You enjoy the fellowship. It’s good to have those you love stay with you for a little while.
But bringing complete strangers into your personal space, that’s a different story. It takes a special sort of hospitality to do that.
Galion Graders baseball players are experiencing that kind of hospitality this summer as members of the Galion community and surrounding areas have provided housing for the young men. These host families have committed up to eight weeks of their summer to giving the Graders a home away from home.
Mike and Julia Roelle of Galion have opened their home near Heise Park to five members of the Graders roster. It was a bit more than the couple first thought they were committing to, but they’re glad to have the young men staying at their home.
“We got a phone call about 8 o’clock Mother’s Day from Lonnie O’Leary,” Julia said. “She said she was over here in the park looking at our big empty house. She said their plans had fallen through for housing a couple of the Galion Graders, and wanted to know if we’d house a couple of the guys for a week or two. Without even asking my husband, I said, ‘Sure, we’d be glad to.’”
What was supposed to be “just a couple of the guys” quickly morphed into four — Jake Krupar, Will Ore, Mark Delas and Colton Carney — on the day they went to pick up the Graders at the Varsity Grille. A.J. Cecil joined the merry band after the season started.
“It feels like a second home for us,” said Krupar, who is from from East Sparta, Ohio. “Nice and cozy.”
Cozy might be an understatement. The Roelles plus “The Graders 5” makes for some cramped living conditions the couple’s Payne Avenue dwelling.
“We have a bath and a half,” Julia said.
Despite the tight fit, Mike said he and Julia have enjoyed having the guys around.
“You can tell these young men have been brought up the right way,” Mike said. “Not that they’re perfect, but they’re good young men. I was thinking on the short term basis we could handle it for a couple of weeks, but it looks like they’re going to be with us for the duration of the season. And we’re okay with that. It’s kind of our way of giving back to the community a little bit in our small way.”
All three of Mike and Julia’s sons were athletes, so having ballplayers around the house is no big deal. And they’ve become some of the biggest Graders backers in town.
“We’re supportive of it,” Mike said. “It’s really a big undertaking to put a team together. The least we can do is support it. Hopefully, it will blossom into something larger for the community.”
Krupar and Ore, from Vero Beach, Fla., have both played summer league baseball in the past. Krupar played for the Owensboro (KY) Oilers in the Ohio Valley League last summer.
“Last year was my first year of summer ball,” said Krupar, who plays his college ball at the University of Toledo. “We actually stayed in dorms, so this is a million times better. A home away from home and nice people making food for us, letting us crash at their house.”
Ore, a left-handed pitcher at West Virginia State University, played last summer in the Futures League in Maine.
“They do a really good job here,” he said. “From my experience before to this one, it’s really good. It’s a lot different here. It’s different being in a small town. I like it a lot.”
Delas, a Perrsyburg, Ohio, resident who plays collegiately at Toledo, said being with the Graders affords him the chance to spend some time at home. He has enjoyed the experience.
“We’ve got a great host family,” he said. “It’s just cool how they take care of us.”
Carney, a native of Brecksville, Ohio, who plays college ball at Seton Hill in Pennsylvania, said his first season of summer league baseball has been positive.
“It’s definitely different, but it’s a blast,” he said. “I love it. It’s cool to hang out with all the guys and get home-cooked meals every once in a while.”
Cecil, who plays at the University of Findlay and is from Oak Harbor, Ohio, appreciates the hospitality he has experienced in Galion.
“Everyone has been really welcoming,” he said. “It’s been great hanging out with these guys every day. It’s been a great summer.”
Final question for Mike and Julia. Will you play house parents for the Graders again in 2016?
“Possibly, yes,” said Julia. “But only if it’s the same guys. I don’t want to break in new ones. I really encourage people to try something like this. You gotta get involved and you gotta help out this town. Let’s just get out and support stuff.”Andrew Carter can be reached at 419-468-1117, ext. 2048. Connect with him on Twitter @ACGalionSports.