PEOPLE LINE UP at the gate for a Diamond Dawgs game and the team celebrates
a win.
PEOPLE LINE UP at the gate for a Diamond Dawgs game and the team celebrates a win.

Parishioners of Holy Family in Little Falls are stepping up to the plate this summer to help out the Diamond Dawgs baseball team.

The Diamond Dawgs, a summer collegiate baseball team that’s part of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League (PGCBL), play in the Mohawk Valley area from June through August. The team’s roster includes college players from across the country.

Each year, the team looks for host families nearby who are willing to house players for the duration of the summer league. It’s become an annual tradition for some parishioners at Holy Family to open their homes to the players, hosting one or more athletes for the summer months.

Travis Heiser, president and general manager of the Diamond Dawgs, said the generosity of the host families has been a great help to the team.

Host families “give a sense of normalcy” for the players,” said Mr. Heiser. “It makes the transition easier for players coming from all over the country.”

Parishioner Johanna Miller has been a host for the Diamond Dawgs for the past two years.

“The first year was really exciting,” she said, with even her neighbors getting enthused about having the players living nearby.

In the 15 years the team has existed, 75 players have been selected in the Major League Baseball draft or signed as free agents. Two former Diamond Dawgs are still playing in the MLB: Nick Goody, who was drafted by the New York Yankees, but is now a relief pitcher for the Cleveland Indians; andTomas Nido, drafted by the New York Mets, for whom he’s still a backup catcher.

Ms. Miller lives in Syracuse, but has a second property in Little Falls. In 2016, her sister, Kira, heard that the Diamond Dawgs were looking for host families in the area and suggested it to Ms. Miller.

Ms. Miller was apprehensive at first about hosting, noting that the players were all college students: “Think back to what you were doing in college days.”

Her worries were for naught. The players were great “homemakers,” she said: They cooked all their meals (some, having up to five a day), kept the house clean and even offered to help her with upkeep of the lawn and property.

“I looked forward to the next year” of hosting, she said.

Ms. Miller wasn’t the only one who anticipated the players’ return. Kira Miller and her son, Alexander Andrilla, got to know the Diamond Dawg players well over the past few summers.

Ms. Miller describes her son Alex, 11, as an outgoing kid who loves to be involved in sports. During the summer, he would walk over to his aunt’s house to play videogames with the Diamond Dawgs, eat dinner or play baseball in the yard with the athletes.

In 2017, Alex made a big “welcome” sign when the team arrived at the house in June. At the end of the season, he cried when it was time to say goodbye.

He still keeps in touch with some of the players.

“He looked up to them like big brothers,” his mother said.

This year, Ms. Miller had another tenant in her unit for part of June and was unable to rent to the team. Alex was disappointed with the news, but still gets to see the team play in his hometown for the summer season.

Mr. Heiser said he reminds his players to be conscious of how they act during games, because “you never know who is watching. It could be a scout [for the big leagues] or a five-year-old kid.”

A few summers ago, the Diamond Dawgs started doing a Holy Family parish night, inviting the parish to attend a baseball game for free. Joanne Miller, mother to Johanna and Kira, loved the team and wanted to find a way to provide support, so she had approached Mr. Heiser with the idea.

Mr. Heiser said that “one hand washes the other” in the community. Holy Family parish’s choir also sings the National Anthem for the game the parish attends, and parishioners of all ages come to cheer for their “local team.”

“It trickles down to community, and [that] supports everybody else,” said Mr. Heiser.