| May 9, 2023
By CCL Reporter Sam Nute
(SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA) – As a founding member of the California Collegiate League, and celebrating 76 years as an organization, the San Luis Obispo Blues have had thousands of players sport the iconic “SLO” baseball cap.
When the team was founded in 1946 by Manager Sandy Leguina, he assembled a group of World War II veterans coming home to San Luis Obispo who wanted to play baseball. He added a few younger players and began the season playing against semi-pro and town teams from throughout California. Fast forward nearly 45 years, the club continued to recruit players from the Central Coast, but as they began winning and playing more and more difficult competition in the CCL, the Blues needed to expand their recruiting circle. As their reach expanded across the country, the Blues began to reach out to the surrounding San Luis Obispo community for potential host families.
Host families play an important role for many CCL teams. Top-tier talent comes from across the country, so teams provide housing in the form of local families. When the Stowe family bought the team in 2014, the staff member responsible for organizing host families tragically lost her husband and could no longer help the team.
Blues General Manager, Adam Stowe, turned to someone he could trust for this important work.
“The lady who was helping us lost her husband,” Adam’s Mother and Blues co-owner Marianne Stowe said. “Adam said she would no longer be able to do the job after her husband passed, so he asked me if I would do it for a year…that was nine years ago.”
The Stowes have made a family business out of the Blues, with each taking a little piece as their own. Adam has taken over as the manager and in Marianne’s words, does “a thousand things.” Marianne’s husband and co-owner, Keith, handles promotions, and Marianne has taken over the host family coordinator position, improving the program year after year.
“When my family took over, I needed somebody that I could count on 100%, all the time,” Adam said. “My…mother volunteered for the gig, thinking she was only going to do it for a year or two. I believe this is our ninth. And I keep telling her she’s probably the best host family coordinator in the country because she’s the only dedicated one.”
‘Dedicated’ might be an understatement for the level of organization Marianne has used for the Blues’ host family system. The process requires vetting on both the player side and the family side. Marianne sends out an initial questionnaire to the players asking what their preferences are.
She trusts that her son is able to find good players and people, but the Blues questionnaire will ask if the player has special allergies or has a specific teammate, they would like to be housemates with, among a variety of other inquiries.
On the family side, Marianne is significantly more involved. She takes it upon herself to drive to each house in order to interview the families and inspect each house, making sure that each family meets the Blues’ requirements.
“If a new family comes in that we haven’t had as a host family before, I do go to the homes,” Marianne said. “We ask that each player has their own bedroom. They don’t have to have their own bathrooms, but at least they have easy access to bathroom and kitchen privileges.”
The inspection only happens if a new family comes in, but since families keep coming back and becoming hosts year after year. Much of the reason that families decide to come back has to do with the unique host family community that the Blues create. Families are compensated along with being provided season passes and VIP parking at Blues’ home games.
It isn’t the money that keeps them coming back, though.
“Most of [the host families] are big baseball fans in general,” Marianne said. The host families, we have some gatherings. I can’t say it’s a club, but it is a group of people who enjoy one another, and we have two gatherings. We have a pizza gathering at the initial opening of the season. Then we have a host family barbecue at the end of the season.
“It gives them a chance to get to know one another, and because quite a few of them are repeating, they get to see the people again.”
Marianne has brought together this community of host families together under the Blues’ umbrella. She has created so many relationships throughout the SLO area. Those relationships became even more important when Marianne was diagnosed with cancer in 2022. Due to her treatment, Marianne was unable to do many duties she usually was accustomed to when organizing host families for the season.
This year is the first season that Marianne has created a ‘Host Family Committee’ tasked with all of her usual duties, recruiting three of the host family moms. One is the contact for all the players, one is the contact for all the host families, and the other organizes the special host family barbeque and pizza gathering.
“Those are my three people,” Marianne said. “They have been host families for a number of years, so they know how to do it. They’ve got better computer skills and are 40 years younger than me. So, it’s great.”
Approaching 80 years young, Marianne’s time in the field could be coming to an end sometime soon. Whenever she does finally decide to hang it up, there is a special community ready to take over, all built by Marianne herself.
“They’re almost all positive, and all negative experiences get taken care of pretty quickly,” Adam said of his mom’s work. “…I don’t hear much, which means she’s doing almost a perfect job. This is one of those things where you don’t get a lot of credit when things go right. You’ll hear about it when things go wrong, and I hear about it so infrequently. She’s doing an amazing job.”
For the Blues, clearly, it’s about baseball, and so much more.
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