In a little less than a month, Jim and Susan Zacher again will open their doors to strangers.
For the duration of the McHenry County Youth Sports Association’s International Championships, youth baseball players from Japan will call the Zachers’ Crystal Lake residence home.
This will be the ninth year the Zachers have hosted Japanese baseball players as part of the home-stay program that houses players from international baseball teams who come to McHenry County.
“Eight years ago, we had no idea what a lifelong impact this would have on us,” Susan Zacher said. “Every year is more and more memorable.”
Teams from Japan, Puerto Rico, Aruba, Sri Lanka, Brazil and Lithuania will join a number of teams from the U.S. – including many local teams – to play in 11-and-under, 13-and-under and 15-and-under baseball tournaments.
Opening night is July 27 at Lippold Park in Crystal Lake. The tournaments conclude during Championship Weekend on Aug. 2 to 4. Games will be played in Crystal Lake, Lake in the Hills, McHenry and Woodstock.
MCYSA’s home-stay program provides a place to stay for the international teams coming to McHenry County to play ball. Tournament Executive Director Jack Sebesta said about 14 kids still need homes to stay in. The tournament is looking for about seven more families willing to house the kids.
The primary need is to find housing for the 15-year-old players from Lithuania, but the tournament also is looking for homes for 13-year-olds from Sri Lanka.
“People who have [housed kids] say it’s a great experience,” Sebesta said.
Susan Zacher agrees. She said the experience housing Japanese players has been incredible. The Zachers have become friends with the coaches and interpreter who return each season. They stay in touch with some of the players, sometimes on a weekly basis.
“It provides lasting bonds,” she said.
Susan said her family members – which includes three children ranging in ages from 13 to 19 years old – have always been big baseball fans, and they will continue participating in the program until her kids are grown up.
Families are paid a stipend to host players. If you are interested in participating in the home-stay program or learning more about it, contact MCYSA Treasurer Ted Groat at 815-236-1979 or email TaftI969@aol.com.
• Jason Schaumburg is editor of the Northwest Herald. Now that hockey season is over, he doesn’t know what to do with himself. Reach him at 815-459-4122 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Schaumy.