Folsom Pioneers benefit from host families

By: Matt Long
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Coming off the best season in their seven-year history, the Folsom Pioneers have a big thank you to extend. The Pioneers, a team filled with 30 collegiate baseball players from all parts of the country, couldn’t have come close to a 34-20 record without the willingness of others to open their homes. Seven families, including two from Folsom and two from El Dorado Hills, invited 14 strangers into their homes for two months this summer so they could play baseball with the Pioneers. Essentially half the team was staying with host families. Folsom’s Barbara Catalano and David and Nina Norris from El Dorado Hills hosted two players each, as did Ken and Debbie Zeier from Shingle Springs. Folsom’s Jennifer Derner-Beck, Mark and Judi Denholm from El Dorado Hills and Melanie Overmoe from Roseville all hosted one player, while Pat Haley put up five players in his home in Carmichael. “I can’t say thank you enough to these families,” Folsom Pioneer coach Brant Cummings said. “You can’t measure their importance to us. Having host families increases our reach in terms of whom we can recruit and the pool we have to choose from. It’s quite a battle to get local players, a lot of which play for the Marysville Gold Sox. The further we can go, the less of a battle it is for the players.” The Pioneers featured a roster with 11 players attending college outside of California. Three players, Kalani Brackenridge, Russell Doi and Chase Koissian, are from Hawaii, while Colton Bielaski, Sean Meehan and Collin Monagle attended the University of Washington. Mitchell Rowan and Keith Jennette go to school in Oregon, while Brian Valente and Robert Wendzicki attend Eastern Michigan University. Kellen Simmons goes to school in Texas, while Will Fisher is from Illinois and attends college in Missouri. Several other players attend California colleges that are far from Folsom, such as Ian Williams, who is a student at UCLA. Long story short, very few players are from the Sacramento area. “No question we have better players this year and we’re a better team because of these host families,” Cummings said. “Every player staying with a host family played pivotal roles for us.” Cummings said every team in the West Coast League has host families. Haley loved the experience of having Kalani Brackenridge, Russell Doi and Chase Koissian from Hawaii, Anthony Bona from San Jose and Will Fisher from Illinois in his home for the summer. His two teenage sons, Sean, 17, and Michael, 16, also enjoyed the company. “I originally said I would take two or three, but then they asked me if I could take five,” Haley said. “I said sure. I’ve got plenty of room. It went great, it really did. I think my sons met some lifelong friends. They’re always texting and talking to each other. “I had a car available for them to use and got them free guest memberships at 24-Hour Fitness. We took them boating, just like they were part of the family. Everyone enjoyed having them.” For the second year in a row, Catalano opened her home to a player, this year hosting Sean Meehan and Collin Monagle. Both players live in Washington and attend the University of Washington. “I come from a baseball family with an uncle who used to be a major league umpire, a cousin who works for the Mariners and my sister who used to be in the Giants organization,” Catalano said. “Hosting has been a great experience. It’s neat to form a relationship with these guys. Sean was signed by the Indians so now I have a son who plays for the Indians. “It’s fun to watch the boys mature into young men. They wrote me a nice card and got me a gift certificate and they didn’t have to do that. It’s worthwhile and something I would do again.”