Cape Cod Baseball League host families open up their homes and hearts to college baseball’s finest

Looking through the Boston Red Sox’s 2018 roster, there are several names local baseball fans might’ve recognized before the season even started. Chris Sale. Jackie Bradley Jr. Mitch Moreland. Brian Johnson. Matt Barnes. Before making it to the majors, these rising stars all spent summers during their college years playing for the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League—and for a brief moment in time, they called Cape Cod home.

For many who play in the Cape League, what happens off the field is just as meaningful—if not more meaningful—as what happens on the field. Residents throughout the Cape offer up their homes to these young men—complete strangers—and serve as their surrogate family during their time in the league. In most cases, it’s more than just a place to stay and a home-cooked meal every day that these families provide, and by the end of their stay, the players and their host families are bonded for life.

This experience is one the Norkeviciuses, Johnsons and Thompsons know well, and in the following pages, they—along with a few former players—share heartwarming stories of the close relationships they’ve formed over the years. It’s said you get what you give, and each of these host families say they get so much more from their players than what they give them.

Colin and Nicole Norkevicius with Bourne Braves players

Colin and Nicole Norkevicius with Bourne Braves players Kevin Radziewicz (#17), Richie Palacios (#1) and Jameson Hannah (#12) last summer.

The Norkeviciuses

Nicole Norkevicius remembers the day in 2009 when she took her two young sons, Colin and Mitchell, to the Cape League championship game—a game that saw their beloved Bourne Braves come out on top against the Cotuit Kettleers. “It was very exciting; everyone charged the field,” she recalls. “I remember that’s when I first spoke to someone about hosting a player.”

Having frequented Bourne games over the years, Norkevicius, who is now the president of the Bourne Braves organization, says it seemed like a natural fit to become a host family for the team. Along with her husband, Algis, the family has been welcoming players into their home each summer since 2010. Last summer, they had as many as four players in their house at one time. “To be blunt, these are the best college baseball players in the country, but if they don’t have a place to stay, they can’t play,” she says. “Colin and Mitchell slept on an air mattress in our bedroom so that we could host these players.”

Those players included Kevin Radziewicz from Fairfield University, Jameson Hannah from Dallas Baptist, and Richie Palacios from Towson University. “He really hit it off with Colin and Mitchell,” she says of Richie, noting that he continues to keep in touch with both boys on a daily basis. “When he did extra workouts over at Sandwich High School, he would take Colin and Mitchell with him. They would time him and run with him. Richie taught my kids the amount of work you put in off the field.”

Richie also imparted another invaluable lesson to Mitchell, who shared the lesson in his school essay about Richie. “Last summer was a learning experience because it was the first time we hosted African American players,” Norkevicius explains,  “and Mitchell wrote about how he learned that everybody should be judged by their hard work and not the color of their skin.”

Another player the Norkeviciuses share a unique bond with is Reid Humphreys, who they hosted in 2015. “Colin had elbow surgery last March, and Reid called him the day of the surgery to touch base with him,” she recalls. “It’s great for both my boys, especially for Colin, who’s the oldest child, to have these older brothers to look up to.”

“They brought me in like I was their oldest son,” says Humphreys, a pitcher for the Colorado Rockies’ Lancaster JetHawks. “I remember playing whiffle ball with Colin and Mitchell in the backyard. We watched ‘SportsCenter’ at night when we’d come home before the kids went to sleep. We’d have dinner together every night after the game—it was awesome having a full dinner made.” To Humphreys, the Norkeviciuses were everything he could’ve hoped for in a host family. “Having a family that really brings you in and makes you feel comfortable makes it a lot easier to play.”