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The Johnsons with Peter Miller and Justin Gonzalez of Florida State

The Johnsons with Peter Miller and Justin Gonzalez of Florida State University at a Seminoles game at Boston College in 2012. Dan Johnson says he likes to support the former Cape League players he’s hosted at their college as well as professional games.

The Johnsons

Dan Johnson has an important rule for the Cape League players staying at his house: “You make yourself at home. If you’re hungry, don’t ask, just go eat—that’s your refrigerator. That’s your laundry. That’s your bedroom. Just be at home, and everything’s going to work out.”

To Johnson, the choice between doing the bare minimum for his players and going “overboard” is an easy one. From making lunches for the players with his daughters Camrynn and Jordynn, to handing them the keys to his old Bronco, to taking them out to Sandy Neck for a cookout, Johnson strives to create a fun, family atmosphere for the players he hosts. “We just love going overboard for them,” he says. “I don’t even consider it an effort—it’s how I would want my kids to be treated if they had to leave me for 10 weeks and go live with strangers.”

Johnson, who began hosting players for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks in 2011, says that not only has he developed lifelong connections with many of the players they’ve hosted, but his daughters have too. “In fact, Justin Gonzalez and Nick Wittgren, they’ll always refer to those two as their sisters,” he says. “That’s the bond you get from these guys.”

One player who particularly stands out to Johnson is Joseph Shaw, who came to the Cape League from Dallas Baptist in the summers of 2013 and 2014. Johnson fondly remembers the day they picked him up at the Hyannis bus station in 2013: “Here he is, 6-foot-6, pair of cowboy boots, flannel shirt, big belt buckle. I’m surprised he didn’t have a cowboy hat on. He comes up, big hug from him right away, ‘How y’all doin’? My name is Joe Shaw.’ From the get-go, he was like family to us.”

“I know that I was a little nervous when I went up there for the first season,” says Shaw, a pitcher for the New York Mets’ Binghamton Rumble Ponies. “It was the farthest I had ever been away from home and a different spot in the country I’d never been. The transition with them was easy, and we just clicked right away. Our big thing we always did was play cornhole together. The second season I was there we hosted a cornhole tournament at their house, and that was a lot of fun.”

Shaw says he’s made a habit out of coming back to the Cape to visit the Johnsons every year. “Every single year after the end of his Minor League season, he says, ‘I’m coming back up to see you guys,’ and every single year he comes back up, and he extends his stay,” Johnson says. “I joke with him now, I’m like, ‘Joe, you keep this up, you’re going to wind up living up here!’”

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