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Host families allow Generals players a place to stay (VIDEO)

Keldy  Ortiz

By Keldy Ortiz
Aug. 3, 2013 at 3:03 a.m.

Victoria Generals pitcher Argenis Angulo sits talking with Lisa Thornton, middle, and Mike Thornton, left, at their home in Victoria. The Thorntons are one of the host families housing Victoria Generals players for the summer as they place baseball away from home and school.

Just after 4 p.m. most days, players can be seen running out the home of Lisa and Mike Thornton.

Lisa chuckles when players scramble to get back in the house only a few minutes later because they forget a glove or the correct color jersey.

These players aren't the Thornton's children, but Lisa and Mike feel like they are.

The Thorntons are just one of many families who have opened their homes to Generals players during the summer. They've done so since the team began playing in 2009.

Nearly all players and coaches for the Generals have a host family to live with.

"It's an opportunity to provide a family for these kids," Lisa said. "They still need a mom and dad."

Pitcher Kyle Keller has lived with the Thorntons since the beginning of the season. For him, he didn't have to adjust to getting living in a new place.

"There's always food on the table," Keller said. He added that before games, some players have asked for Lisa's trail mix as a pregame snack.

"We just got connected with a great family," Keller said.

Mike Thornton was reserved about having players stay at their home.

"These guys that would be coming in we flat out didn't know," Mike said.

He eventually became receptive to the idea, even taking some players in years past on a fishing trip.

At the start of the season Keller and Brett Hoffman, moved in with the Thornton family. But when Hoffman left the team, the Thorntons welcomed catcher Aaron Morgan and pitcher Argenis Angulo, who is a native of Araure, Venezuela.

Angulo arrived to the team at the end of July but doesn't speak much English. That hasn't kept the Thorntons from making him feel welcomed.

"I came late, but they made me feel part of the family," Angulo said in Spanish. "They always text if I need something to eat. The experience here has been like when I was back home in Venezuela."

The Thorntons check up on players they've hosted in the past, even attending college games of the team they play on. In their home above their television are pictures of players from previous seasons.

Other Generals players have stopped by the Thornton residence. Brandon Hannon, one of many "adopted sons" Lisa said she has, enjoys coming by the home.

"Mrs. Lisa is awesome," Hannon said. "I didn't think (host families) would be as welcoming. It's been a welcoming experience."

While the Thorntons have hosted 16 players in five years, Greg and Daniella Shelby are in their first year as host families. This year, they are hosting pitchers Armando Arevalo and Kris Looper.

Though Greg and Daniella have three children - all boys - she thought the experience would be good.

"Having our boys around older men is good because they can have a role model," she said. "My 5-year-old thinks he's the coolest kid on the block because the Generals are at his house."

Their 5-year-old son, Jacob, especially enjoyed having pitcher Matt McClain stay at the Shelby's residence.

"They played video games together," Daniella said. "It's really neat after the game to see my son Jacob pick up his car seat and ride with Matt."

Generals GM Blake Koch, who helps find host families for players, has seen the bond players have had with their host families. He checks in regularly with the hosts to see if things are going smoothly.

"Our host families are our biggest fan base," Koch said. "We couldn't afford to put (players) in hotels. They really are the foundation of the team."

Host families are as much a part of the Generals as the coaches and player.

As long as the team remains in Victoria, "I will be a host parent," Lisa said.



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