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Lincoln Potter’s Host Family Program shows Lincoln hospitality at its best

By: Jim Datzman
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Potter’s history

In the early 1950s, the Lincoln Potters were known throughout Northern California as a premier company baseball team. 

Most of the adult players were part of a team sponsored by their employer, the Gladding, McBean Company. Players in those days generally worked full time during the week and devoted their summer weekends to playing for the Potters. 

The Potter team competed with distinction in the Placer-Nevada Baseball League until it disbanded in 1968. 

This year, the Potter team has once again appeared in Lincoln and plays its home games at the renovated McBean Park Baseball Stadium. 

The difference between “then and now” is that today’s player is a college student playing the game during the summer in order to showcase his skills amongst players from teams formed in Oregon and California.

 

The Great Western League

The Lincoln Potters play against teams in the general vicinity, such as the Marysville Gold Sox, the Yuba City Bears and the Chico Heat. The Potters also compete against teams from Oregon, including the Portland Pickles and the Medford Rogues. 

Life on the road for these players consists of long bus rides, shared motel rooms and modest meals at nearby restaurants.  Between late May and mid-August, they play more than 30 road games, including an All-Star game in late July and the League playoff games in early August. 

It’s the home games that present a different form of challenge for both team management and the players. 

 

Housing challenges

Although some of the players live at home in Lincoln or in nearby communities such as Roseville, Rocklin, and Granite Bay, some of the players live in distant locations such as Douglas, Arizona; Taylorsville, Utah; and Toronto, Canada. 

Fielding a team for the entire summer requires finding a place for the players to stay while they are demonstrating their skills at our local ballpark.  Since the players are not salaried, their meals and lodging for the summer are provided through a Host Family Program. 

 

How the Host Family Program works – Michelle Eskridge

Earlier this year, when 30 players committed to playing for the Potters for the summer, the Host Family Program was initiated. The intent was to provide assistance with lodging, meals and transportation as needed for a player for the season. 

Michelle Eskridge, who has established a very positive reputation as a community volunteer, agreed to serve as the Host Family Coordinator for the team.  The Potters’ website includes a section used to describe expectations for those residents who want to learn more about the program.  Interested individuals were asked to fill out a “Host Family Information Packet” on the website or to contact Michelle for further information.

It is a credit to our community that 18 responses were received with offers to host one or more players for the season. Michelle was pleased that she was able to place 20 out-of-town players in 18 homes.  She credited this to cooperation with program publicity by The Lincoln News Messenger, local Facebook program publicity, assistance from local Little League families and “word of mouth” within the community.   A player Host Family Application and a Host Family Survey Form were used in completing the matching process. 

The positive feedback that Michelle has received from both the players and their host families has provided her with a sense of satisfaction, knowing that her efforts have been a key factor in the success of the Potter program. In the interest of brevity, comments, here are limited to two host families and two players, although feedback concerning the entire program was very positive.

 

Host Family comments

Gary and Darlene Kramer were visiting with a friend who informed them about the Host Family Program.  Darlene turned to Gary and said, “I want to host a player at our home,” and so it happened that they fell host to a 6’4” 250 pound Potter pitcher by the name of Jake Parent. 

They describe Jake as an energetic and independent young man who is “always on the go.”  Although the Kramers were not big baseball fans, they soon became Potter fans while watching Jake perform. 

Jake was very thankful for the comfort provided by the Kramers whenever he stayed in their home.  Gary said that hosting Jake was such a positive experience that they are going to volunteer again to be a host family next season. 

Since the Kramers operate the local Blabbermouth Chocolate Factory, we can also assume that Jake, as a business major in college, will learn a little about the candy business too. 

Gary Kramer was also very complimentary, regarding Potters general manager Matt Lundgren, noting that Matt works constantly and efficiently behind the scenes to make the Potter program a success.

 

Michael and Sarah Prince found out about the Host Family Program through mutual friends (Kris and Larry Wyatt), who are active members in the Friends of McBean Park program.   The Wyatts’ enthusiasm for the Potter Baseball Team convinced Michael and Sarah to join the program.  Although they noted that the 6’5” tall Kenneth Pettibone had some difficulty getting in and out of cars, they soon became enamored with his cheerful personality as well as his skill as a pitcher for the Potters.

Sarah became an instant Potter fan and has attended almost every home game in addition to attending several games in Chico, Marysville and Yuba City. 

The fact that Kenneth’s parents were pleased with Kenneth’s first-time-away-from-home living arrangements provided additional satisfaction to the Prince family and they hope to serve as a host family again next year.

 

Player comments

Player feedback suggests that the Host Family Program has been instrumental in the success of their baseball program.  Knowing that their food, lodging, laundry and other needs are willingly provided by their host family allows them to focus their attention on the games that bring them to Lincoln for the summer,

In high school, you play twice a week and in college, you play three times a week.  Contrast that with the 60-game schedule within 68 hot summer evenings and you begin to understand the training ground that is intended to prepare these players for a future in professional baseball.

Included in the program are the ordeals associated with travel to stadiums in both Portland and Medford Oregon.  Travel for these folks involves 10-hour bus rides, lodging at four players to a room, and a modest $15-per-day meal allowance. 

Potter pitcher Kenneth Pettibone, who was one of eight Potters named to the League All Star team, indicated that the time spent together results in close friendships and a real team camaraderie.  Kenneth will enter his sophomore year at Cypress College near his home in Southern California but is hopeful that he can return to Lincoln next year and live with the Prince family while again playing for the Potters.

 

Owner comments

Team owner Clifton Taylor has met the challenges associated with owning a new team in a new league and in a newly-renovated stadium, with a consistent sense of support and enthusiasm that has been evident to both the players and to Potter fans. 

Clifton greatly appreciates Michelle Eskridge’s role in serving as Host Family Coordinator as well as the families who stepped forward to accept a player in their home for the summer. 

Clifton commented, “The Host Family Program is critical to the Potter’s success.  Opening their homes and their families to our players allows us to match top talent with a diverse group of players from across the country.  Neither the team, nor the players, could afford the accommodations provided by the host families on their own.  However, the Host Family Program is much more important than financial.  The support and mentorship they provide the players is critical to our player’s experiences as Potters and gives comfort to their families back home that they are cared for and safe.”

 

Future hosting opportunities

This year, the Potter players came from distant locations such as Toronto, Canada (Austen Swift), Aurora, Colorado (Travis Parker) and Douglas, Arizona (Hector Sepulveda)

Next year’s Lincoln Potter players - who knows? 

What we do know is that the Host Family Program will again be an important element in the team’s success.

Think you might be interested in serving as a host family in 2018? Just contact the Lincoln Potters website at lincolnpotters.com or contact the Potter office at (916) 209-3444.

Thanks to the host families for proving that Lincoln is an outstanding community for volunteerism and go Potters!

 

Jim Datzman is a member of the city of Lincoln Parks and Recreation Committee.