Found family: The Griffins host minor league baseball players


Graphic illustration by Sports Section

Jennifer Griffin used to host Minor League San Jose Giants players, including Jose Marti and Miguel Gomez, at her house during the baseball season.

Meera Nambiar, Web Editor

From running Lynbrook sports to teaching PE, athletic director Jennifer Griffin is heavily involved with sports on campus. Her passion for athletics extends beyond Lynbrook, as she used to host Minor League San Jose Giants players, including Jose Marti and Miguel Gomez, at her house during the baseball season.

Since 2012, the Griffins were a host family for the Giants for eight years. Although the host program was paused due to COVID-19, Griffin hopes to continue opening her home to players and meeting new people from around the continent. The players she hosted came from all over the U.S. and Latin America, including the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. During baseball season, from March to September, she would host two to three San Jose Giants players in her spare bedroom. Hosting was originally her husband’s idea with Griffin’s full support of it. 

“I told my husband, ‘I think that sounds awesome,’” Griffin said. “In my husband’s mind, it would give our son an older brother who he could talk to. So, my husband reached out to the San Jose Giants, and they paired us up with a player that first year.”

 In order to become hosts, the Griffin family first filled out a form with their preferences to find the player who would be the best fit. This included whether or not the players would have their own rooms and bathrooms and if the family would charge rent — Griffin did not. In return for hosting, the family received perks at Giants ball games, including season passes and seats in the host family section. The Griffins attended many games to support their players, and afterward, they often debriefed with the players on how they performed in the game. Hosting has also allowed Griffin to make lasting relationships with players and other host families. 

“We get to experience other cultures — sometimes they would cook dinner for us,” Griffin said. “They would tell us about their life at home: how they grew up and how they ended up being drafted. We still connect with them after they leave, and the players mean a ton to us. They are a part of our family, and it’s a special connection that we really enjoy.”

In January during winter break, Griffin’s son stayed by himself with pitcher Jose Casilla’s family in the Dominican Republic. Casilla was a player who the Griffins hosted, and the visit furthered the connection between the two families. 

“Visiting the Dominican Republic this year meant a lot to Jose Casilla,” Griffin said. “He had recently lost his older brother who had passed away from brain cancer. And so having my son, Ajay, go and visit was really helpful to him and his family because it gave them a distraction during a very difficult time.”

The visit allowed Griffin’s son to explore a less tourist-centered side of the island and play Dominican games like Vitilla, a baseball style street game with bottle caps instead of balls. He also improved his baseball skills, and Casilla introduced him to MLB players like Casilla’s brother Santiago Casilla, who played with the San Francisco Giants from 2010 to 2016. 

Although the experience allowed Griffin to make new friends, hosting came with its challenges. The night timings of baseball games caused the Griffin family to stay up as players would often get home late at night. Similar to roommate situations, it took some time for them to get used to each other and learn how to live together. 

“It’s a pretty crazy schedule, and so it made for a lot of late nights,” Griffin said. “Sometimes, we had to drive to pick them up and they would arrive at 2 or 3 a.m. Also, if the guys are really shy, it takes a little while for us to get comfortable with each other.” 

Personal experiences with professional athletics have also shown Griffin the competitive nature of professional sports. Though people may see professional sports as glamorous, it takes hard work and sacrifice to reach that stage, and teams often place profits over people. Griffin witnessed this when the Giants sent away an injured player hosted by Griffin while he was traveling with the team.

“They sent him to Arizona while the team was on the road,” Griffin said. “So we had to pack up his stuff and find his passport. I learned that it is not about the people at all. It seems that teams don’t care about the people themselves. It’s all about the money.”

While there were some setbacks, the Griffin family has greatly enjoyed their hosting experience and hope to continue it in the future.  

“We love getting to know new players and seeing them progress,” Griffin said. “We sent an email to the San Jose Giants saying, ‘Hey! Are we going to have host families this year?’ and we are looking forward to it if it is allowed.”