House them and they will come — the Montauk Mustangs that is. The Mustangs are Montauk’s home team in the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League. Their first game is scheduled for June 1, but there’s a problem, and it’s bigger than the one that faced the Mudville nine.
About a dozen of the squad’s 24 players need a host family, a place to stay during the season, June 1 to the end of July.
Their field is waiting just below the Montauk School, freshly clayed and laid out with a 15-foot-high cyclone fence — the equivalent of Boston’s Green Wall — in left center field. The fence is called the Montauk Monster, and is the field’s only concession to the long ball. This season, bleachers will be placed along the third-base side of the field. If all goes well, the league will provide dugouts for the players next year.
“But, without housing, there’s no team. It’s plain and simple,” said Bob Aspenleiter, the Mustangs’ general manager who is berthing several players himself. He and the assistant coach, Jamie Loeb, a Montauk resident, baseball coach, and former scout for the Chicago White Sox, are beating the bushes in search of folks willing to put some players up.
They have made their plea at the Montauk Community Church, and before the East Hampton Kiwanis and Montauk Lions Clubs, the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, and at East Hampton High School and have so far come up empty. They say they understand that second-home owners come and go during the summer, but surely “we can get 1 percent of the 20,000 full-time residents that live between Montauk and Southampton,” Aspenleiter said.
They allowed that part of the problem was the league’s insistence that the players — college freshmen, sophomores, and juniors — live in houses maintained by adults.
They stressed there was little concern about the athletes’ behavior. They play six games per week, so their home time is mostly consigned to sleep. In general, they eat on the run, much of their food provided by the league, which has a zero-tolerance for drinking or drugs.
The league cannot afford to pay for the players’ lodging, although it’s hoped that this could be possible in the future. The older, Cape Cod collegiate league pays people to house the players. Host families are required to supply a room, bed, laundry, and some meals. They are not required to provide transportation.
“So, why would I do it?” Aspenleiter asked rhetorically. “Maybe to introduce your kid to a young man who has earned half a ride [scholarship] to college through baseball. They are role models.”
Players qualify for one of the nation’s hundreds of summer leagues if they play for Divisions I, II, or III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, N.C.A.A.
Coach Loeb said the Hamptons League, created in 2008 with the help of Montauk’s Rusty Leaver, has 20 alumni players who were drafted into the majors in the fourth or fifth rounds. There are 48 alums currently playing professional baseball from Triple-A ball to the major leagues.
Loeb said that collegiate summer leagues were where major league scouts concentrated their efforts. The Hamptons League is one of only four collegiate leagues in the country to be sanctioned by Major League Baseball.
The Mustangs will compete against teams from Sag Harbor, Shelter Island, Riverhead, Southampton, Westhampton, and the North Fork.
Brett Mauser, commissioner of the Hamptons League, recruits players from all over the country and disperses them to the individual teams. “He tries to place them to make the games competitive,” Aspenleiter said. Players pay $500 to participate. In addition to providing free entertainment, the league also offers free clinics to local Little League players.
“The Mustangs are free entertainment, community-based, grassroots supported,” Aspenleiter said. “There are no national sponsors or donors.” Support comes instead from local businesses including the Hampton Jitney, which provides transportation for all the teams to and from their games.
Game schedules for the summer season can be found on the team’s website, MontaukMustangs.com. Those who would like to provide lodging for a Mustang or two are asked to contact Bob Aspenleiter at 903-1010, as soon as possible.