By David Krueger Herald Writer
When it comes to getting to the big leagues, there really is no place like home.
Tim and Kristine Scoville’s home, to be exact.
The Scovilles, who are in their seventh season as a host family for the Everett AquaSox minor-league baseball team, have housed three players who have gone on to pitch in the Seattle Mariners’ bullpen. In 2010, the Scovilles hosted Stephen Pryor and Tom Wilhelmsen in their south Everett home. Two seasons later, they welcomed Dominic Leone.
Leone added to the legend of the Scoville house when he made his major-league debut with the Mariners on April 6.
“We mention it when a player comes and stays out our house. We tell them who stayed here,” Kristine Scoville said. “I know other host families have joked with players, pitchers especially, ‘That’s the house to be at if you want to make it.’ But it’s pretty exciting. We’re just really happy for all the guys.”
Kristine and Tim, both 55, have housed numerous relief pitchers over the years. Tim Scoville pitched in high school and likes to talk baseball with the young pros.
“It’s been kind of fun hosting pitchers,” he said. “I feel like I have something a little more in common with them. … It’s a process of reliving your youth through other kids, and to see them do well is really cool. But we’ve had good experiences with the ones who were let go, and didn’t go much farther than here, too.”
Phil Hann was the Scovilles’ first player in 2008. They have hosted 12 more since, including Daniel Cooper, Ricardo Pereira and Ben Versnik.
This season, the Scovilles have Jeffeson Medina — the first starting pitcher to live with them — and reliever Cruz Pereira. The two are aware of the history of the house.
“It’s very cool because those three guys played hard (and got to the majors),” Medina said. “I see that I can go to the big-league team, too.”
As a host family, the Scovilles provide the players with food, a bed and support throughout the season. And their efforts are not forgotten when their former tenants hit the big time.
“They’re tremendous, great people,” Wilhelmsen said. “Very nice, very caring.”
Said Leone: “They were like surrogate parents. They’re really caring. They make sure you had everything you needed. They were really, really on top of everything.”
It didn’t take long after Leone found his housing assignment to learn of the reputation of the Scoville house.
“When I first got into Everett, they told me my housing arrangement,” Leone said. “They told me I was going to the Scovilles’ house and said they had Wilhelmsen and Pryor. I was like, ‘All right, this might be some good luck for me’?”
The Scovilles have nothing but fond memories of their former guests. Tim said Pryor was “pretty quiet, very determined and very driven.” Pryor allowed just one earned run and struck out 26 batters in 18 innings before being promoted to Clinton of the Class A Midwest League.
When it came to Wilhelmsen, who pitched in three games for the AquaSox over a span of about two weeks, Kristine exclaims, “Tom was very personable!”
Both Pryor and Wilhelmson were promoted before the 2010 Northwest League playoffs, which Everett won.
Like Tim Scoville, Leone was from Connecticut, which helped them form a quick bond. Leone went 3-0 for Everett with five saves and 39 strikeouts in 33 innings, helping the Sox clinch the first-half title in 2012 and finish 46-30.
“Dominic was fun. He was just a really nice guy,” Tim said. “I liked the way he was so well spoken. He did really well here — just like Tom and Stephen — and it’s good to see him with the Mariners. It’s been really enjoyable having all of them.”
Other host families, while marveling at the Scovilles’ luck, say the players couldn’t get a better house to live in.
“They’re awesome people,” said Kristi Simmons, of Lake Stevens, who along with her husband, Chad, is also in her seventh season hosting AquaSox players. “They’ve had some great guys go through their house. They’re just great people.
“I don’t know. Maybe she feeds them something special.”
The Scovilles try to keep in touch with as many of their former players as they can, whether it’s a text message, a phone call or, in the case of Wilhelmsen and Leone, a visit to Safeco Field.
“It’s been fun to keep in touch. Kristine follows them wherever they go,” said Tim, who is an engineer at Boeing. “She knows how everybody’s doing, wherever they are.”
One of Kristine’s favorite moments occurred last year when Pryor returned to Everett for a rehab assignment and talked to Ricardo Pereira, who lived with the Scovilles.
“It was great last year when Stephen did his rehab assignment,” Kristine said. “He called Pereira his ‘brother’ because he was staying in the same house he did.”
The Scovilles’ house features plenty of baseball memorabilia. They have the players they host sign a ball before the end of their time in Everett and have purchased several items at the Mariners Team Store relating to their former players. Tim and Kristine have a game-used ball Leone used to strike a batter out on three straight pitches, as well as Pryor’s name placard from his locker at Safeco Field.
Pryor, who hadn’t pitched in Seattle since early in 2013 because of injuries, was called up for Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Twins and returned to Class AAA Tacoma immediately after the contest.
“It is pretty neat,” Kristine said. “It’s kind of fun to think of them all being there together right now. … That’s the reason you want to do this. You hope that the guys make it all the way. That’s their dream and you want to help them with their dream.”
Despite their impressive resume of players, Tim and Kristine don’t plan on having a streak like David and Kathy Hope of Edmonds, who have 20 years of host-family experience for the AquaSox. The Scovilles plan to move to Arizona after Tim retires from Boeing in the coming years.
However, they don’t plan to retire from baseball.
“I think we’ll do it as long as we live here,” Kristine said. “(Maybe) another five or seven years. Our plan is to retire to Arizona, but even once we get to Arizona, we hope to get to know the players down there and still be involved in minor-league baseball.”