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Bulls depend on host families for housing

Monday, August 6, 2007

Sikeston Bulls manager Jamie Puckett walks back to the dugout after talking with players.
SIKESTON--For the summer months of June and July, the Sikeston Bulls are focused on winning a KIT League championship.

That means the players have to put in long hours of baseball practice, play a 50-game regular-season schedule and shake off the weariness of traveling to towns that are between one and five hours away.

But another aspect for this group of 20 collegiate-level ballplayers is that they are doing it based in towns, such as Sikeston, that most of them are quite unfamiliar with.

"Sikeston was a nice place to stay because it's a little larger than my hometown and it has some fun places to hang out," said Mason Mosby, a native of Hernando, Miss., who patrolled the outfield for the Bulls this summer.

Hernando, which is located 12 miles south of Memphis, Tenn., on Interstate 55, claims 9,500 residents.

"I grew up about 20 minutes from Memphis. So, I am used to finding entertainment and other things to do in a city of that size," Mosby said. "Since I was staying with (Bulls pitcher/second baseman) J.R. Bizzell and his parents, and since our other teammates from Rhodes College were there, it was a wonderful experience."

J.R. Bizzell, who was the only Sikeston native on the Bulls, met Mosby at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., where they each won a spot on the baseball team. Both ballplayers were a part of a Lynx squad that finished ranked No. 6 in the South Region at

36-10 overall in 2007, according to D3baseball.com.

When the collegiate season ended, Bizzell recruited Mosby and Rhodes teammates Brett Miller (1B/OF) and Brooks Royer (SS/2B) to play for the Bulls.

All four ballplayers stayed at the Sikeston home of David and Karen Bizzell.

"It was a fun experience for my family because these guys were a well-

behaved bunch," David Bizzell said. "Since my son, J.R., is a member of the Rhodes College baseball team, we had already gotten to know the players and even met some of their families."

David Bizzell said, that while Mosby stayed in Sikeston, that the parents of the Bulls' outfielder came here to visit.

"I can honestly say that housing these guys was a great experience because there was not one problem," David Bizzell said. "In fact, I didn't hear of any problems from any of the other host families.

"These guys are at an age where they can make mature, adult decisions. And I think, as a parent, that puts our minds at ease."

When a baseball team, like the Bulls, has a 50-game regular-season schedule to play during the span of 64 days, the Bizzells and other host families rarely had opportunities to see the players.

"There was a lot of time during the season when the guys were away from the house," Mrs. Bizzell said. "They had to be at the ballpark around 3 p.m., when the Bulls were playing a home game, and it would be seven or eight hours later before they would return home that night.

"If the Bulls had to travel for a game, they spent even less time at home. There were only two or three nights a week when we had the chance to have a family-style dinner with them."

About the only noticeable aspect of housing four ballplayers for two months was their intake of food.

"With four college-age men in the house during the summer, our grocery bill certainly took a hit," David Bizzell said with laughter.

Sikeston residents Mike and Michelle Worth hosted two ballplayers--Bulls catcher Chase Kittinger and first baseman Troy Sitton.

The Worths, along with their sons, McKenzie (9) and Max (5), enjoyed having Kittinger and Sitton at their house.

"McKenzie loved having the guys around because he got a lot of baseball tips from them. They showed him ways to improve his skills on the diamond. He became an avid fan and wanted to go to every Bulls game," Worth said.

Since the host families do not receive any compensation to house the Bulls, the hosts and the ballplayers might work out an agreement to take care of some household chores.

"They did some things for us around the house, like washing my fence. They even offered to cut the grass a few times, but I told them that I would take care of that," Worth said.

"This was a great experience because we helped them out and they helped us out. I hope more people choose to host players next season. It's a great way to give something back to our community."

There isn't much that is needed to have a ballplayer stay with a family, according to Worth.

"About all you need is an extra room and some food. We bought lunch meat for them and fixed them a few meals. Every once in a while, we gave them cases of water and Gatorade to take to their games," he said.

Worth believes the greatest need to keep a KIT League franchise alive and prosperous in Sikeston is to create a strong base of community support.

"They need us as much as we need them. The Sikeston Bulls provide a good level of baseball talent in a family-orientated atmosphere at a cheap price. This is the kind of entertainment we need here in Sikeston," Worth said.

For more information on how to become a host family for the 2008 KIT League season, call Bulls General Manager Fred Johnson at 471-7700.