Host families help Taos Blizzard players chase their dreams

When the Taos Blizzard was looking for host families, Wanda Lucero and Jim Armijo stepped up with a dozen other local families and welcomed the ball players into their homes.

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When the Taos Blizzard was looking for host families, Wanda Lucero and Jim Armijo stepped up with a dozen other local families and welcomed the ball players into their homes.

“I felt inspired by their courage to take a leap of faith to pursue a dream,” Lucero said.

Originally they thought they’d welcome one or two ball players into their home. The need was so great, however, that they ended up letting five Blizzard players live with them. Without support from the community, the chances of the Blizzard remaining here would dwindle. With the ball players only making $50 a week, host families were a critical part of the needed support.

Lucero and Armijo only had one spare bedroom and a loft, but Lucero said they “felt the need to squeeze as many as we could in.”

Before welcoming Blizzard members into her home, Lucero was familiar with both sides of the host family situation. Her daughter studied abroad in Brazil and Lucero said she’s still grateful to the family who hosted her. Six years ago she also hosted a student from Venezuela and said he became a member of her family during the few months he spent with them.

After this baseball season, her family has five more boys in it: Enoch Deaton, Matt Garlock, Matt Kaldon, Connor Sullivan and Chris McIntyre.

The five boys not only became part of her family, they bonded tight with each other — spending 24 hours a day together, sharing rooms and driving to games together.

“There was never a dull moment,” Deaton said. “We were always keeping each other on our toes and giving each other a hard time.”

Even with five ball players in her home who were complete strangers before the season started, Lucero said she never felt uncomfortable and described the players as “an amazing group of young men.”

Armijo’s son, Noah, also became one of the boys.

“It was amazing to see them take him under their wings,” Lucero said. Before games, Noah would be on the field playing with the team, taking swings and throwing the ball around. “They mentored him as a player and a young man,” Lucero said. “It was wonderful to see that.”

Playing games almost every day for two and a half months, baseball consumed the ball players’ lives. “They worked so hard every day,” Lucero said. “They were constantly working on their game.”

Having a bed to sleep in, a place to do their laundry and an occasional meal is what enabled them to focus. Feeding the boys, however, isn’t part of the requirement. Giving them a place to stay was the main thing.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to help support someone pursuing a dream,” Lucero said. “When you know the players it becomes more real so you want to support them,”

“They treated us great,” Deaton said. “We couldn’t have asked for better host parents. We appreciate everything they did for us and we couldn’t have done it without them.”

sports@taosnews.com

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