by avery pullin
Becoming a Host Family
Like many, I had often thought of professional sports as purely glamorous. Playing baseball with your buddies and getting paid, how does it get any better than that? My brother-in-law was a pitcher. Aaron Pullin, who was the first Bulldog of that era to be drafted out of high school. While he opted instead to pitch at the University of Texas-Arlington the next four seasons, he ultimately continued his baseball career with the Los Angeles Angels organization. As the years go by, I’ve learned much more about my brother-in-law’s time in professional baseball. It’s a grind. Less than minimum wage and 10+ hour days. Sub-standard housing and long, arduous bus rides-a far cry from glamorous.
“We called to offer our spare room and you can imagine our surprise when the Rockhounds’ front office let us know we would be having a player move in the very next evening”
In 2018 we found out our minor league baseball team, the Midland Rockhounds, needed a host family. We called to offer our spare room and you can imagine our surprise when the Rockhounds’ front office let us know we would be having a player move in the very next evening. I learned our house guest was a starting pitcher who had graduated from Wake Forest and been drafted in 2017. He was from Zionsville, Indiana. Parker Dunshee was about to move into our home, and that is all we knew.
Parker Dunshee, RHP, Wake Forest
During the 2018 season Parker was pitching in Stockton, California, when he got bumped up to Double-A. The next day he was on a plane to Midland. He recalls not believing there could really be a stadium out here. “I watched Friday Night Lights and knew what it looked like. I had seen flat because I live in Indiana. But it is usually green there. “
Parker didn’t have much time to settle into the life in a desert town as the next evening he was dropped off at our house. He had a few bags that contained his whole life and barely knew our names when he knocked on our door. He pitched the next day- four innings- and they were quite possibly the worst innings he’s ever pitched. As luck would have it, a heavy rainstorm came in, the game got canceled and the stats of his first Double-A game got wiped clean. It would be a long time before he saw rain again in Midland, but he never saw another bad night on the mound.
When the Rockhounds were in town on his pitching days we were at Security Bank Ballpark (now Momentum Bank Ballpark). As we got to know Parker, though, we learned what a great person he is. We met his family when they visited, and we loved them too. He introduced us to the state pie of Indiana, sugar cream pie, and I ensured it was on our table for Easter his second season here. He read to the kids, played with them and somewhere along the way became a member of our family.
Parker made a name for himself with Rockhounds baseball. When the 2018 season ended, he had a 2.01 ERA. The next spring he was invited to Major League spring training before being pushed to Triple-A. He received Pitcher of the Week accolades in both Midland and Las Vegas (Triple-A) in 2019.
By the end of 2019 he had been invited to play for Team USA and pitched in an Olympic qualifying tournament. Dependent on schedules and various other elements, you may see Parker on the Olympic stage and will be able to cheer on one of our own Rockhounds.
Seth Martinez, RHP, Arizona State
By the middle of the 2019 season we started feeling as though our house was empty. That’s when Rachael DiLeonardo, Rockhounds Director of Community Relations, asked if we would like to host a new player who had just been called up, Seth Martinez, a reliever out of Arizona State.
Seth brought pure joy to our home and like Parker, Seth became part of our family. He loved when the kids would ask to go see him in the bullpen or try to stay up late enough to say hi when he came home after the games. Our two-year-old daughter especially grew fond of Seth, whom she lovingly called “Seff.”
In time, Seth settled in perfectly to Midland. Some of his favorite memories of Midland are the fish fry we had when his dad was in town and getting to play in the charity softball game with local veterans. He and two of his teammates went to the Midland High football game one evening and were amazed at their first live experience of ‘Friday Night Lights.’ One thing Seth noticed about his time in Midland was the simplicity of life. Coming from a large city like Phoenix, he felt like Midland and its people allowed him to take life day-by-day.
A highlight of his baseball career in Midland was clenching a playoff spot in 2019. At the end of the season the Rockhounds went on a winning streak and were on the road in Springfield, Missouri, when they clenched. Accomplishing those big milestones after working hard all season-for an athlete, there is nothing better!
Collin Theroux, Catcher, Oklahoma State
If you went to a Rockhounds game in 2019, you noticed Collin. Collin Theroux is a catcher originally from San Mateo, California, who played for Oklahoma State. You can’t help but to watch him-every catch, every at bat, every play is executed with passion.
While playing in Corpus Christi, Collin started hearing what he thought was a guy and his two sons “chirping” at him. But on the road in the minor leagues you don’t have strangers cheering you on, so Collin was getting frustrated. He caught a glimpse of the family and saw on their faces that they were genuinely rooting for him and after the game, the threesome went down to meet Collin. A friendship began and they followed the Rockhounds throughout the summer, including trips to Tulsa and Midland from their hometown of Waco. During the COVID-19 shutdown Collin is living in Dallas, but he drives to Waco every Wednesday and Friday to play baseball with them. That is the kind of guy Collin is- all in, all baseball.
To get situated in Midland, Collin says you must know where to eat. The baseball players don’t have much time for activities, but they always have to eat. His favorites include Cork-and-Pig Tavern and HEB. Collin describes Midland as a great town and gives it authentic praise saying, “It is growing and progressing yet staying true to its roots. And you can’t beat summer nights in Texas.”
Mikey White, Infielder, Alabama
I first heard of Mikey White when of a 4th of July batting practice with a player donning a red, white, and blue striped jumpsuit. I began following Mikey that day and have often laughed at his antics that the team shares through social media.
Mikey played shortstop for Alabama. He was drafted in the 2nd round in 2015. A broken leg in 2018 put him on the sidelines for much of that season, but upon his arrival to Midland, Mikey was able to settle in quickly. His host family chose him as they too are Alabama natives. He enjoys spending time with them or relaxing in their pool before games. Last year he really hit his stride when he helped the Rockhounds clench the playoffs, moved up to Triple-A the next day, and then celebrated yet another playoff berth with Las Vegas that night.
At the field he enjoys visiting with the clubbie, Rusty, who is a Rockhounds legend. Mikey describes Rusty as a “bright spot” in Midland who gives the most memorable pep talks. He also appreciates the fanbase here. Fans come out to meet the team at barbecues, events, and games and “they understand our dreams and are super encouraging.”
The Rockhounds’ roster is filled each year with top notch players. Just like any organization they have guys from different backgrounds. Different colleges and high schools. Different political views. Different races. Yet they come together for the same dream; to make it to the big leagues.
Without each other they cannot succeed. And without this town they cannot continue to excel. They give us the Rockhounds. We give them Midland. †Side Bar
The guys were gracious enough to give me their time for the article, but I could not let them go without asking two more burning questions.
QUESTION: What do you wish people knew about minor league baseball players they may not know?
“They are professional baseball players even though they’re not in the MLB. Not all of us sign for big signing bonuses, but we are all out here playing the same game.” –Parker Dunshee
“That when you get drafted, you don’t move straight to Oakland. People always ask if I live in Oakland. On a real note it is a full-time job. There’s a lot more daily work you put in than people think, even your mental strength. During a season it is every single day, bus rides, all that. When it comes to game time, you have to have that mental strength to perform your best. It is mentally challenging and demanding.” –Seth Martinez
“We’re dealing with real stuff. Family stuff. Financial stuff. Girlfriend stuff. His arm might hurt today. Nobody should feel bad for us, but there’s more [to it] than meets the eye.”
“The hecklers—I don’t know—some people take it too far. My dream is to be in the Big Leagues. I wish people realized that.” –Mikey White
QUESTON: What is a Rockhound?
“Uhhh. Isn’t it a dog? It’s not? Then I don’t know! I thought Rocky was our mascot! But we also had a moose that I was very curious about. Oh, a geologist. That makes sense! Wow. That is a fact that more people need to know. We should’ve just had Cash walk around as our mascot.”
“Well, I’m just trying to think. Is it some type of miner, like mining? And maybe the dog?”
“I think it’s just a miner. Someone who works at the quarry. My last college class I took in the winter to finally graduate was a geology class. That was the hardest class I have ever taken in my life. But I passed! I graduated!”
“I do! I looked it up. It’s a person who studies rocks.” –Mikey White
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