Q: Why did you originally decide to host players?
A: Back in 1982, some of our friends were in the booster club for the Great Falls Giants, as well as host parents. We decided to jump in with both feet! That first year we housed five players. The oldest one was only 18!! We learned lots of do's and don'ts! And, that was long before cell phones, phone cards, and internet. 2019 will mark our 37th year as a host family. We've housed an athletic trainer, a radio announcer, and since 2015, members of the coaching staff.
Q: How have you personally benefited from hosting, and what does it mean to you?
A: We've opened our hearts and our home to all of these awesome young athletes from nearly half the 50 states. Our biggest personal reward has been the multitude of friendships we've formed with not only our guys, but with many of the other players every year. And, of course, with their parents, grandparents, wives, and girlfriends who are always so appreciative of the generosity of the host families. We've formed lifelong friendships, especially with those who've visited here. For many years, I've taken thousands of pictures at all the games. Through social media now, it's easy to share these pictures with those who can't be here in person.
Before limitations due to health issues, we were able to do lots of traveling thanks to being a host family. We kept up with our guys as they climbed the ladder of success. Four of ours reached that ultimate goal of making "The Show". We were able to surprise one of them at the Kingdome in Seattle when his Cleveland Indians played the Mariners. We were able to see another one when we drove to Arizona for Spring Training in 2012. He was playing for the Oakland A's. Through the years, we've driven thousands of miles!
Q: What keeps you coming back as a Voyagers host family?
A: We love building new relationships every year as well as maintaining those of the past 36 years. We certainly have not kept in touch with every one of our guys, but, again, social media has made communication so much easier. We're able to see them get married and, at last count, we were nearly at 40 "baseball grandkids"! Four of our guys remain in the White Sox organization. One is a professional scout, two are with the Winston -Salem Dash as manager and pitching coach, and the Voyagers manager for the past two seasons will be returning to our home.
Q: What piece of advice do you have for others who are thinking of joining the Voyagers Host Family Program?
A: If anyone has ever considered being a host family, we encourage you to take that step. Give it a try! These young men experience homesickness, competition among their peers for playing time, and the daily grind of their 76-game schedule -- half of which is traveling hundreds of miles around the ever-expanding Pioneer League. They just need a place to call home, a little encouragement, someone in the stands cheering for them, and a simple hug now and then. We simply have no regrets, just countless memories!
Terry and 'Fred' Williamson
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.