With Schooners headed for postseason, host familes can hang on to their summer
Groton — Chances are Nancy Barnhart stayed up late Friday night.
Barnhart and her husband Tom make up one of about 15 host families for the Mystic Schooners of the New England Collegiate Baseball League.
They've grown accustomed to spending hours after some games talking to Adam Touhey, who's lived with the Groton couple for the last two months while playing for the Schooners.
With Mystic clinching a postseason berth with a 5-1 win over Plymouth in the regular-season finale Friday at Fitch High School, Touhey would have plenty to chat about.
"It's been a good experience," Touhey said before the game. "They're really nice people. It's a good relationship. I feel really close to them, like they're a second family to me.
"I'll stay up sometimes and just talk with them for two or three hours, sometimes until like 4 in the morning. We've gone through everything from family history to the games."
This is the third summer that the Barnharts have hosted a Schooner. They have a spare bed with their grown daughter out of the house.
They've loved every minute of it.
Nancy, who's retired and attended every home game but one this summer, has become a baseball fan.
"I tell people that I can't imagine in the summer not having a kid stay with us," Nancy said. "It's been a great experience."
Nancy has a scouting report on each one of her players, from Joe Hudson, the first player to stay with the Groton couple and now in the Cincinnati Reds minor league system, to UConn's Connor David, to Touhey.
Touhey, an Arizona resident who attends the University of Hartford, is a bit reserved but fiercely competitive. He enjoys playing video games with Nancy.
Nancy can read Touhey's mood so well that she knew there would be no late-night chat after Thursday's tough loss.
"I knew by the look on his face when he came in that we weren't talking," Nancy said with a laugh. "It was the same way with Connor and Joe."
Friday's victory also meant the Barnharts would have at least a few more days with Touhey. Mystic begins a best-of-three playoff series with Ocean State on Sunday in Wakefield, R.I.
Nancy is not a big fan of the end-of-the-season goodbyes.
"It's terrible," Nancy said. "The first summer I thought my own kid was going off to college. It was awful. ... You get attached to kids like they're your family."
Nancy and Tom remain in touch with their baseball sons. They've gone to UConn women's basketball games with David. Hudson called them after hitting his first professional home run.
They're already looking forward to hosting another player next summer. They highly recommend it to any family.
"A lot of people think it is too much work," Nancy said. "Actually, it's not a lot of work at all. I feel Tom and I have benefited as much as the kids do."
Manager Phil Orbe considers the host families a vital part of the franchise.
"It's really an amazing thing," Orbe said. "We could not have this team without the host families."
News and notes
Mystic (22-22), which finished third in the Eastern Division, plays second-place Ocean State (24-20) in the first game of the series on Sunday in Wakefield, R.I. The Schooners host game two on Monday. If necessary, a third game will be Tuesday at Ocean State. ... Keaton Flint had two hits and three RBI on Friday while Anthony Galan (4-2) earned the win, allowing six hits and a run in six innings. Tre Gonzalez and A.J. Turnier, both of Montville, combined for three innings of scoreless relief. ... First baseman Nico Darras has transferred from Cal State Fullerton to UConn for the fall semester.
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