Schaumburg Boomers ballplayers spend season living in Friendship Village senior complex; ‘You wouldn’t believe how much fun it is’

"Yeah, it's like a college campus. It's beautiful. They do a really good job here. I'm really...
"Yeah, it's like a college campus. It's beautiful. They do a really good job here. I'm really impressed," Boomers second baseman Chase Dawson said.(Wendy Foster)
Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 11:35 AM CDT
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SCHAUMBURG, Ill. (CBS) - Minor league baseball players often stay with host families to save money, and one local team has an interesting twist on that idea.

The Schaumburg Boomers are an independent minor league team in the Frontier League. About 10 years ago, they were working to find housing for their players during the season. As CBS 2′s Matt Zahn reports, they ended up working with Friendship Village, and now each year two or three players stay at the senior living community.

What do their friends and other people say when they tell them where they’re staying?

“That’s interesting. They’re like, ‘really? Are you playing bingo with them?” said Boomers catcher Blake Grant-Parks.

“The idea is crazy. I talked to my friends the other day. They’re like ‘wait, you’re here?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, but you wouldn’t believe how much fun it is, and it’s not what you would think,’” said second baseman Chase Dawson.

Yes, once you get over the initial craziness of the idea, you realize it’s a pretty good one. These minor league baseball players need a place to stay, and it turns out Friendship Village is a pretty great place to stay.

“Yeah, it’s like a college campus. It’s beautiful. They do a really good job here. I’m really impressed,” Dawson said.

“So far I’ve enjoyed it a lot. I got here first day, and thought this was interesting. It’s quiet and peaceful, kind of what I like. The residents here are really kind,” Grant-Parks said.

What’s it like for the seniors having minor league ballplayers live in their community?

“Fantastic. We get to see them once in a while, but they’re so busy, and we’ve had them before, and we enjoy having them,” Velma Robinson said.

Maybe the best thing about this partnership between the Boomers and Friendship Village is that it feels like a win for both the residents and the players who stay here.

“Number one, it’s great for us to see some young people walking around. Number two, I think it’s great for them as well. I think they come away, probably, with a better understanding of mature adults,” senior George Amann said. “My mother used to have an expression. She said, ‘I’m not old, I’m older.’ Don’t put any limits on yourself.”

“They always try to give advice, and it’s always good advice. It’s always, ‘Play as long as you can, play hard.’ A lot of advice I get is ‘I’d give up every dollar I have to be your age again,’ and I’ll take that with me forever,” Dawson said.

And the residents put absolutely no limits on themselves when they got to spend the day at the ballpark with the Boomers. Not only did they enjoy watching the game, they got to participate by throwing out a first pitch, doing some announcing, and taking part in a home run derby.

“I was in the home run derby. I only hit one home run this year. That was fun,” Sally Belzer said. “A couple years ago, I hit three. So I was the big bopper that time.”

And as much as they enjoyed getting on the field with the players, and watching their fellow residents play, there was apparently one part of the ballpark experience that stood above the rest.

“We could get hot dogs for a dollar,” Robinson said.

“That was really, really, really nice at the game, especially the hot dogs, a dollar a piece,” Tony Pragovich said.

And everyone seems to be enjoying this partnership as well.

All these seniors are very active, especially Robinson, who threw out a first pitch. At 95, she still plays many sports – including water volleyball – and did point out she’s clearly a more well-rounded athlete than these guys who only play baseball.

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