FARMINGTON — Each year, 80 to 90 San Juan County area families play host to young baseball players from all over the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico who are competing in the Connie Mack World Series.
That tradition continues later this month.
The 51st annual Connie Mack World Series kicks off on Friday, July 31, and before it does, players from nine of the 12 teams competing in the tournament will settle into their temporary homes, a program organized by Vicky Campbell and the Connie Mack World Series Foster Family Program.
"The foster family program is what sets Connie Mack apart from other tournaments around the country and is one of the things that keeps it in Farmington," Campbell said. "It's certainly a draw, because it's a big money saver for these kids who come to New Mexico. They build relationships and have extra people at games cheering them on, so that's another thing that makes it so great."
Campbell has been organizing the housing of players for 10 years. The responsibilities of the foster families include providing a bed to sleep in, food to eat, access to a washer and dryer, and transportation to and from games, practices and other team activities.
The process is always hectic around this time of year, according to Campbell, but she's never alone in putting the puzzle together.
"The coaches from each team get in touch with me right when they win," Campbell said. "Basically, I have families that help out year after year, so I don't start from scratch every year. If a few people retire or move on, we never find a shortage of volunteers."
Campbell said that word of mouth from the 80 or 90 families to their friends and neighbors is a pivotal way of notifying potential foster families. She also sends out emails to hospitals, colleges, churches and big employers, urging them to get the word out each summer.
Three teams won't rely on the foster family program this year. One is the New Mexico host — the 4C-Clubsox — and the other two teams are new to the Connie Mack World Series and have opted to make hotel reservations.
Foster families receive free admission for all the games.