End of season, playoff run bittersweet for Blowfish host families

Posted 8/9/23

While the Lexington County Blowfish are in the midst of their first playoff run since 2015, it’s a bittersweet moment for some of the people who sit in section 206 for every home game.

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End of season, playoff run bittersweet for Blowfish host families


While the Lexington County Blowfish are in the midst of their first playoff run since 2015, it’s a bittersweet moment for some of the people who sit in section 206 for every home game.

Those seats can’t be bought online and aren’t sold by the team. Section 206 is reserved for the Blowfish host families. Host families open their homes and spare bedrooms to some of the players that are spending their summers far away from home. For three months of the year, they add a son to the family and once the season ends, say goodbye as they go back to their college or venture off into their next baseball adventure.

Kate Eckert, the host family coordinator for the Blowfish, and her husband Robert sit in section 206 next to the rails every game and cheer on her “summer son” Dariyan Pendergrass, who will be continuing his baseball career at the College of Charleston next season.

Eckert and her family got interested in hosting Blowfish players 14 years ago when her daughter was on her way to school and they heard a radio advertisement from the team about needing host families. It wasn’t a foreign concept to the Eckert family. They’ve hosted church interns before, and as former college athletes themselves, they knew what it was like to play sports and live away from family.

The Eckerts stepped up and have been hosting Blowfish players now for well over a decade. There is a lot that comes with hosting college-aged boys at the house but is also an experience they have found rewarding.

“It’s interesting because we were having dinner and there were about four or five guys that came over and I was talking to my sister on the phone and all of a sudden you hear this loud burp and I was like, ‘Yep, there are boys in my house,’” Eckert laughed. “They’re just young college kids and you build off of their energy and you treat them just like they’re your own. They’re doing what they need to do and it’s a rough and grueling schedule for these guys. They can’t work and they can’t make any money, you know. They’re playing 70 games up and down the roads on buses and not getting in until two or three in the morning and working through injuries so you kind of care for them like they’re your very own.”

Patrick Montgomery and his wife, Barbara, have also been hosting Blowfish players since they moved to the area in 2015. They’ve always been a baseball family and when they moved to South Carolina, they heard about the Blowfish and decided to start going to games. As soon as they started to attend games more regularly, they heard about the demand for host families in the area and it sparked some inspiration.

“I just retired from the military, we have an extra bedroom in the house and I had two teenage girls, one who is 12 and the other was about 15. And I was like, ‘You know, it might not be a bad thing to have a big brother around the house,’ so to speak. So I love baseball and love to talk baseball with people and I thought it would be a good opportunity to help out the Blowfish and do something good,” Montgomery recalled. “We took in our first player, Blake Hamilton, he was a young freshman kid from Georgia and came here and we rather enjoyed it. We enjoyed him being here for the summer and that was it. So since then, we’ve had eight more players over the years.”

The experience has given Montgomery a fresh perspective on the dedication it takes for some of these players to be able to succeed at a high level.

“Until you see what these young players put into their summer and their team, it’s really eye-opening,” Montgomery said. “You have this idea of these young kids that are probably privileged and just have everything handed to them but that’s not the case. These kids work their butts off while they’re here. They get up early and go to weightlifting and extra hitting and most of them do their own training in their extra time as well. They don’t get in until 2, 3 or 4 in the morning from actually playing games, it’s not from partying, but from long bus trips that mirror the minor leagues in many ways where they get to the ballpark at noon and are not getting home until two or three in the morning. So it’s a hard life for these kids.”

Montgomery and his family are currently housing Blowfish All-Star Cooper Blauser, whose father, Jeff Blauser, was a two-time all-star and a World Series champion with the Atlanta Braves. Montgomery has loved having Blauser and sees the work ethic he’s put into becoming his own player.

“His name is Bauser but Cooper is Cooper,” Montgomery said. “He goes out there and plays hard. He’s a very polished young player and I’ve been around a lot of ballplayers and everything else but he’s one of those ballplayers that you can look at and just know they pass the eye test. He’ll go as far in baseball as he’s willing to put into it.”

As fun as the experience is for these families, the hardest part is saying goodbye at the end of the season. They establish these warm connections with these young athletes and every August, they depart and move on to the next chapter of their lives.

“I’m not gonna lie, it’s definitely bittersweet,” Montgomery said. “Especially when you have a player who is such a nice, good kid or young person like Blake Hamilton or Cooper Blauser. Those kids are just few and far in between and they’re a real joy to be around. Tonight, I was like, ‘Wow, tonight could be literally the last game for Cooper,’ so I really wanted to be there just in case. It’s sad to see him go, but it means they’re ready to go forth and prosper. We’re just a small step of their journey and we’re glad to be a part of it.”

For both Eckert and Montgomery, it’s not always a permanent goodbye. Montgomery says he still hears from Hamilton frequently and whenever he and his wife buy new Blowfish jerseys, they buy them with the number 35 on it because that was Hamilton’s number when he played for the team. Eckert still hears from her former “summer sons” and watches them play their college games on TV whenever she gets the opportunity.

There’s still not a single Mother’s Day that goes by without her phone being lit up from text messages from her former players that spent summers with her and her family. The bond has transcended baseball, and Eckert even jokes that the bond she has formed with them has gotten the attention of her daughters.

“We’ve become very close with Dariyan this year and he’s our kid for the summer,” Eckert said. “Our daughters will sometimes say, ‘I think you like the summer sons more than us,’ and I said, ‘Well, they don’t misbehave quite as much as you.’ So, that’s what we do. We love them. We love them dearly.”

Lexington County Blowfish Host Families, Lexington County Blowfish, Kate Eckert, Patrick Montgomery, Cooper Blauser, Dariyan Pendergrass


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