Diné host family welcomes Connie Mack players

By Sunnie Clahchischiligi
Navajo Times

FARMINGTON, August 8, 2013

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(Times photo – Sunnie Clahchischilig)

The Lee family of Farmington hosted two Illinois players during the Connie Mack World Series, which is being held from Aug. 2-9. The two players – Conner Ryan (left, back row) and Eric Duzan – are pictured here with the Lee family. Family members, from left to right, are: Trenton Lee, Uriah Lee, Shanoah Lee, Marvene Lee and Madison Lee, in front of Ricketts Park in Farmington, N.M.

F or many years Marvene and Uriah Lee have pondered the idea of becoming a foster family to the players of the Connie Mack World Series.

Their curiosity ended when they applied to be a foster family. They were one of 80 families selected. Interestingly enough, they were the only Navajo family to be chosen as a foster family for the World Series, which is being held at Ricketts Park in Farmington on Aug. 2-9.

Marvene and her husband knew that some local families played host to the Connie Mack players and thought it would be a good idea to pursue.

"We always thought 'oh wow, they're with their local family, who we know' and that's how we wanted to try it out," Marvene said.

The family of six, which includes four children, is hosting Eric Duzan and Conner Ryan, two 18 year-olds from Homer Glen, Ill. They both play for the Illinois Spark, the North Central Region Champions.

For the tournament the Sparks went 1-2 and were eliminated on Tuesday afternoon.

The Lees said this once-in-a-lifetime experience has been spellbinding, but even more so for their 10 year-old son, Trenton.

"He's played baseball since he was five years old, and he just loves the game," Marvene said. "It's just something for him to experience."

In the days leading up to the Connie Mack tournament, the two players were eager to meet their host family.

"I was nervous," Ryan confessed. "Since I learned it's a full family I was pretty excited."

Despite his short stay, Duzan said he has already learned a lot.

Last Friday, both players got an idea of what an Indian reservation is like by traveling with the Lee family to Shiprock.

For Duzan, the visit to the rez was an eye-opener.

"It's my first time going anywhere similar to that, back in Chicago we don't have any reservations or anything like that," he said. "There's just a lot of Navajo people down here…it's just been a different experience."

In order to become a foster family the Lees went through an application process where they were asked questions about their baseball knowledge and experience. The inquiry also asked why they were interested in becoming foster parents as well as some background on the family unit.

A prerequisite for the program was that each foster family live in or around the Farmington vicinity and be required to take in a minimum of two players.

The organization officials ask that each player have a bed to sleep in, that their foster family provides food and transportation to and from the baseball field and practices.

Foster families are also required to make sure the players have clean uniforms and are home by their midnight curfew.

Vickie Campbell, Connie Mack chairperson for foster families, said the criteria they use is effective.

Having been the chairperson for six year, she's hosted a number of players and knows that becoming a foster family includes immense responsibility.

She added that the reward is much more greater in the end.

"It's incredible, the bond that is formed between the players and family, that's the coolest thing," Campbell said. "The players have someone cheering for them during the game."

Dan Duzan and Taffie Duzan, parents of Eric Duzan, said they were a little apprehensive about sending their son to live with a family they didn't know but they later learned that it's been a good experience.

"That's good for him as a young man to respect another culture and to see different aspects of what their life is like here," said Taffie.

Throughout the week, the Lees accompany Duzan and Ryan to their games and enjoyed some of the best seats in the house.

Uriah Lee said he's been a Connie Mack fan for some years, but this is the first time he's had a good view of the games. He said as a foster family they are given family passes to sit just about anywhere they wish.

"It's awesome cause we get these passes and we get to sit wherever we want, before we just used to get general admission," he laughed.

But his parents know that the real prize is building a connection with Duzan and Ryan.

Uriah said he enjoys watching his son learning from the two out of state players.

"I just want him to see these guys as role models, where they are right now, he could be there, just keep playing the game," Uriah Lee said. "It's going to be weird when they're gone."

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