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Players find home away from home in Poulsbo | World Series
POULSBO — Kathe Breitmayer of Poulsbo said the Babe Ruth World Series came at just the right time — her two sons left for college this week and she has “empty nest syndrome.”
“We make sure they’re fed, their uniforms clean, and have a bed, [are driven] to practices and games … just like a real parent,” Breitmayer said of her guests, who are playing in the national championship for 13-year-olds.
Poulsbo is the host city of this year’s series. The community welcomed players to town with a downtown parade, banquet and, in keeping with Babe Ruth League tradition, spare rooms.
Ten teams from nine states are competing in the series, which began Wednesday and continues through Aug. 22. More than 45 local families have taken in 118 boys — many taking three, four or five teammates, host family organizer Barb Weedin said.
“It’s very heartwarming to see people who have stepped up, people that have just opened up their homes to these boys,” Weedin said. “I just can’t say ‘Thank you’ enough.”
One Poulsbo couple that is hosting players this week said they are still in touch with the family that hosted their son eight years ago.
“I can’t tell you about the hospitality and how we were treated,” Judy Seth said. “A part of that experience is why we wanted to give back.”
Seth said of the three boys, from Greensville, N.C., that she’s hosting, “We’re really their parents for 10 days.” Seth’s son, Tyler, played for Kitsap at a 14-year-old Babe Ruth tournament in North Carolina and a 16-year-old Babe Ruth tournament in Arkansas.
For many families, the more guests the merrier.
“They’re very well-behaved boys,” Breitmayer said of her brood. She and her family are hosting four boys from the Westfield, Mass. team. The day after the players arrived in Poulsbo, they were down at the local park practicing, and ended up teaching a thing or two to a four-year-old boy. The scene warmed her heart, “[the boys] showing him how to run to first base,” Breitmayer said.
“I didn’t know what was expected, but I’m having a blast.”
So are the players. The Westfield players — Anthony Clark, Shaun Gezotis, Scott Walsh and Liam Whitman — said Poulsbo is very nice and has “good citizens.”
“It’s been pretty interesting,” Anthony said. “I haven’t seen my parents in a while, but it’s good to try something new and stay with a host family. They’ve been very welcoming.”
The day after Westfield’s first game, the Breitmayers took the boys and their families boating.
“We’re just having a blast,” Breitmayer said. “There’s lots of energy, I wish I had some [more],” she laughed.
Breitmayer said the players stay with host families during the tournament for the “cultural experience.” When there is time, many of the families plan to take the players on Washington excursions.
Seth added, “They’re going to experience what the Northwest is like. They probably would have never come to the Northwest in their life if not for baseball.”
Breitmayer said she liked getting to know her guests. The boys also filled her in on how they got to the World Series.
The Westfield boys said their team didn’t expect to win, but when they won the qualifying regional tournament, the community rallied around them. Westfield, Mass. raised $16,000 in one week to send the team to Kitsap for the tournament.
Many of the players, especially Seth’s North Carolina boys, are looking forward to the cooler temperatures and lower humidity than they are used to playing in.
The games began Wednesday as pool play through Sunday. Beginning Aug. 20, the series transitions into a single-elimination bracket, for teams finishing pool play in first through third place in the American and National divisions. The championship game is scheduled for Aug. 22.
“It’s amazing to me what [co-host presidents] Brent [Stenman] and Russ Barker have done, to bring the World Series here to North Kitsap,” said Daniel Seth, Judy’s husband. “They worked a ton to pull this thing off. I think it’s going to be awesome.”