State College Spikes players often come and go at a rapid pace, and with the players often making minimal salary, it leaves finding housing difficult.
The Spikes, just like many minor league teams across America, rely on local families to host the players. One of those hosts, Michelle Spaide, has helped an estimated 50 Spikes players — including Major Leaguers Jordan Hicks and Joely Rodriguez — adjust to life in professional baseball, and in some cases life in a new country, as a host since 2011.
“I’ve been at it for so long, since 2011 actually, so I could not even possibly imagine not having it anymore,” she said. “So for that reason, I would do it over and over again.”
Spaide, who works a full-time job at Pine Orthodontics in State College, usually has four Spikes players staying at her Walker Township home throughout the season. She houses them, cooks for them and drives them to and from Medlar Field — sometimes at a moment’s notice.
Because of her fluency in Spanish, Spaide has also become a valuable translator for the Latin American players, many of whom don’t speak any English.
“She contributes a lot, she takes care of the players, she actually teaches them skills like cooking and cleaning and things they can use further down the line,” said Terree Michel, Spikes head usher who also hosts players and coaches. “She has a huge heart, and cares a lot for them.”
This “huge heart” could be seen after a 7-2 loss to the Vermont Lake Monsters on July 31st.
While speaking with one of the players she hosts, infielder Luis Flores, Spaide found out that Dalton Roach, another one of her players, just got word he’d been promoted to the Cardinals’ Class A team, the Peoria Chiefs.
Upon hearing the news, Spaide became emotional and immediately rushed down to the locker room to greet and celebrate with him. As soon as he came out, Spaide embraced him, celebrating as though he was a member of her family, even though they had only known each other since June.
With the Spikes playing in the short season division, most of the players who come through the organization are young, and Spaide does not have any players older than 24.
Many of them are also living away from home for the first time, which means Spaide has to teach them some basic responsibilities, such as closing doors and turning off the stove.
Spaide says this is especially the case with players coming from Latin America, who not only have to deal with the language barrier, but cultural changes as well.
“The language barrier is a challenge sometimes and they don’t always understand the right way to do things, simple things like putting my dog on a leash instead of just opening the door and letting her run away,” Spaide said.
But for Spaide, these are small challenges for a job that she has done for nine years. And for the four players who live with her, the experience she gives is very rewarding.
“(The players I live with) are my brothers and this is a family to me and (Spaide) is like a mom to me,” Flores said. “We all care about each other.”
Outfielder Terry Fuller shared similar feelings.
“(Spaide) is very welcoming, she’s very helpful, and I enjoy every talk we have every night,” Fuller said. “There’s never a dull moment. It’s a great house and I couldn’t ask for a better host family.”