All in the family
Host families quick to adopt GJ Rockies for the summer
Mike and Shannon Sneddon have family members in Colorado, Texas, California and the Dominican Republic.
Their family tree is a work in progress. With every summer comes a new season for the Grand Junction Rockies, and with that season comes new additions to the Sneddon family.
The Sneddons are a host family for the GJ Rockies, and they have been in each season since the Rookie-affiliate baseball team moved to Grand Junction from Casper, Wyoming. The baseball- and softball-oriented family knew from the beginning that hosting baseball players would be a good fit and decided there would be no better way to fill their home’s two empty beds.
Rockies Assistant General Manager Mike Ruvolo said there are only two requirements to be a host family: provide a place for players to sleep and a way for them to get to Suplizio Field. But, players find they get much more than a couch and a car.
“A lot of these kids, it’s their first time away from home and first time living with a host family,” Shannon Sneddon said. “We include them in family events. We sit down with them and just say ‘OK, here is the house, here is the kitchen, here is the food. It’s your home, too.’ “
Ruvolo said the program was put in place in order to relieve players from the stress of looking for housing and covering bills and expenses, but the role of the host families has evolved to become something much bigger.
“To me it’s not necessarily even looking at the expenses part, but it’s the family part, the security part in the town, knowing that there is somebody here for them,” Sneddon said.
In the Sneddons’ case, it’s not just someone, but the whole family. When players stay in their home, they not only gain host parents, but host siblings, host aunts, host uncles and host grandparents. The entire Sneddon family plays a huge role in the players’ lives, and not just when they are in Grand Junction.
When Shannon Sneddon’s parents traveled to Arizona in the spring to see their granddaughter Jenni at college, they also made another stop. Dom Nunez, who stayed with the Sneddons during the 2013 season and returned again this season, was playing a spring training game, so naturally, as any grandparents would, they went to watch him.
“(We bring them into the family) big time,” Sneddon said.
When Shannon and Mike Sneddon made the decision to be a host family, they talked it over with their kids, especially Jenni, because they knew she would be home the most. Now, Shannon laughs about Jenni’s relationship with the players, specifically Nunez, because it couldn’t be more typical of a brother and sister.
“If you could see Jenni and Dom, those two bicker like brother and sister all the time, but yet they hang out all the time, they watch movies all the time,” Sneddon said.
“The way me and Jenni talk to each other is brother and sister, dead on, just like how I treat my own sister,” Nunez said. “We mess around with each other, but in the end I know she will always be there for me, and I know I’ll always be there for her.”
The family has hosted six total players over the past three years: Miguel De Leon, Kyle Roliard and Matt Crocker the first year; Nunez and Raimel Tapia last season; and Kevin Padlo and Nunez this season.
The Sneddons have remained close with many of the players and their families, from Roliard, who talks to them every month, to Nunez’s mom, who texts Shannon during the offseason. Their goal is to bring these players into their family for life.
“They just took me in like I was one of their own kids, with open arms,” Nunez said. “Their house is a great house, and their kids just treat me like one of their own.”
The Sneddons have never had any issues with the players they’ve hosted. But, although Shannon Sneddon wouldn’t describe it as a problem, language is occasionally a challenge.
“Definitely there is a language barrier with some because we do get a large handful of Dominican kids,” she said. “The Rockies are great because they have an English class for them, and the kids truly try to learn English. They do great.”
The Sneddons also do their part to help those who aren’t fluent in English learn the language. Sneddon said they use translating apps on their phones whenever necessary, and the language barrier has no negative effects on relationships with the players.
“Tapia is probably the weakest English speaker,” Sneddon said.
A recent trip to Arizona for a Colorado Rockies spring training game, and a meet-up with Tapia served as proof that sharing a language isn’t necessary to form a bond.
“I just (called his name), and his head just snapped to find me and (give me) a hug,” she said with a smile.
The only real problem with being a host family comes at the end of each season.
“It’s terrible. I cry every year. Jenni cries every year,” Shannon Sneddon said. “We have had some host families consider not hosting because they get so attached, which is a great problem to have.”
The Sneddons hate saying goodbye, but they know it isn’t forever.
If any of the players they’ve hosted make it to the majors, the Sneddons will be there to watch, without hesitation.
“(Having the Sneddons there) will mean just as much as my family being there when I first get to the big leagues,” Nunez said. “It’s a great feeling to know that you have people supporting you that care enough for you to go and enjoy that moment with you. Looking up into the stands and being able to see that will bring chills to me.”