Both Lora Greco and her husband Matt are a host family for Lake Elsinore Storm. They are also members on the Board of Directors for. Matt is a member at large and Lora is the former Vice President, and current Treasurer for the Lake Elsinore Storm Booster Club. As Treasurer, it is Lora’s job to keep track of every penny that comes and goes from the Booster accounts to be able to appropriately support the boys during their time with Storm.
Lora grew up a Philadelphia Phillies fan, and Matt is a huge New York Mets fan. He converted Lora to cheer for the boys in Flushing. In 2014, they made the big move from Eastern Pennsylvania to California. They then became season ticket holders for the Padres during the 2014, 2015, and 2016 seasons. Matt was a Mets season ticket holder in 2007 and 2008.
In 2017, Matt came across a Facebook post asking for people interested in and willing to apply to become host families for players coming to Lake Elsinore to play for Storm that season. They followed through with the application process and here they are now.
How did the Storm Booster club come about?
From my understanding, the Booster Club was started in the early 90’s shortly after the team was formed. A few locals became friends with some of the players. Those players then would leave tickets for the locals at the Will Call window. In exchange for their free tickets, the locals were asked to return the tickets back to the players.
Why? Because on the back of the tickets were coupons for Buy 1 Get 1 Free sandwiches from a local fast food restaurant or free fries with purchase of a sandwich. The players could not afford to pay rent, provide their own transportation to and from the field, and eat well at the same time. They would use these coupons to feed themselves when not at the field. It was this process where concern for their new friends grew, and while I’m not sure of any further details, the club was formed and still exists today. We actually have one man who has been a member since the first year.
The host family program was formed in 1994 by Melody Kaiser as a means to provide the players with a taste of home when they are in the Elsinore area. However, it is currently run by Dilayla Ebel.
What is the goal of the Lake Elsinore Storm Booster Club?
The Booster Club’s main goal is to enhance the experience of the players while they are here.
This is done by means of the dues members pay, 50/50 chances, and raffles to raise money. With that money, the Booster Club provides snacks for the clubhouse, an allotment for the clubhouse manager to spend on the road for post away game meals, and a Player of the Month award for a player who’s been exceptional on and off the field. This player is chosen by the coaches.
They also “Pass The Hat” during games. If a pitcher strikes out the side (meaning all outs are due to strikes thrown by the pitcher), or a batter hits a home run we pass the hat. A few Booster Member volunteers make their way through the entire stadium with a bucket to collect money. The pitcher who struck out the side or the batter who hit the home run then receive the funds collected. The guys LOVE this.
Unfortunately, many people are unaware how little minor league players make. Everyone just assumes they all make millions per year. This is far from true. Those who get high signing bonuses are usually 1st or 2nd round drafts. 3rd and 4th round drafts receive a bit, and then it just decreases after that. At the level they are at in Lake Elsinore, the average player makes about $1,000 per month. Players are only paid during months of season play; this does not include Spring Training.
This makes every dollar we can help them out with so much more important.
What are some obstacles you’ve faced as a host parent, if any?
Honestly for us, this has been nothing but a positive experience.
I do know of host families having their players come home from a game only to let them know they’ve been let go. I can imagine that would be so heartbreaking to deal with. You become attached to these players and don’t want to see them have to go through a disappointing moment.
There is always also the fear of injury. So that has run through my mind from time to time. Again, we luckily haven’t had to deal with either of these situations in our three years.
I know you’ve hosted Joey Lucchesi and David Bednar. What is it like watching them play in the major league? How does that make you feel?
It is so surreal. I call them my boys, and even though Joey and I are less than 10 years apart, I feel a weird motherly type love for them in a way.
The day it was announced Joey was called up, we hadn’t seen him on any roster following Spring Training. We knew he had done well so we were confused. And then Matt saw on Twitter that Joey had been spotted in San Diego. I got in contact with Joey’s mom just to ask her if what I thought was true really was. Matt was on the Padres website ready to buy tickets. She added us to their ticket group and getting to experience that with his real family was almost like an out of body experience.
With David, it came at such a great time. We had just lost our senior dog a little more than 24 hours prior to finding out and had been feeling pretty down. Matt wakes me up yelling “The Padres called up David!!!” I texted David and his parents how happy we were for him. He debuted in San Francisco so while we didn’t make his Padres debut, we made it to his first home game with the team.
Watching them on TV is crazy, still. Hearing announcers talk about them, I find myself rewinding and watching again. No idea why, but I do it every time.
To see them on our tv, and think “hey, I know that guy!” I text them after games to let them know we watched. Last season I would let them know beforehand that we were making the trip down to see them play in person. Both boys are so kind and thank us for supporting them. They check in with us periodically, wish us happy holidays and birthdays. It’s a special relationship to have.
Overall it is a sense of overwhelming pride.
Unfortunately there aren’t any Minor League teams playing this season because of the pandemic. How has this year been different for you and Matt?
Life has slowed down for sure. I’ve been able to experiment with cooking and have been working on our personal blog. We’ve been doing our part to flatten the curve and have stayed home most of the time. We’ve gone on some drives to get out of the house but keep our distance and whatnot. I actually got Matt to watch the original Star Wars for the very first time. I’ve been trying for 8 years, and it took a pandemic to get him to say yes!
We do keep in touch with all five of our players and see how they are doing. We also follow or are friends with them on various social media outlets. We never want to be a bother, so it’s usually once a month or so contact unless something pops into my head to tell them.
How can someone become a host parent for Storm? Can anyone join the Booster Club or are there certain requirements that need to be met?
The program coordinator requires you to live within a certain distance of the stadium for transportation purposes.
Many players don’t have their own vehicles. There is a questionnaire to fill out one for prospective and returning host families and one for the players. This is so that everyone can be matched with the best possible player/family for them. You would want to disclose if you have pets and what kind because of possible allergies. Any children, some players want a quieter home. If you have a vehicle they can use. This is especially helpful for those who live further away. I believe we only have 2 maybe 3 families within reasonable walking distance to the stadium, so transportation information is necessary.
For the booster club, they accept members nationwide. We do have a few out of state members. Information can be found on the website. As of 2020 dues are $50 for a family and $30 for an individual. This gets you discounts on game tickets and invites to special events and pregame tailgates with the Booster Club and one or two where the players join us. We also host a pre and post season dinner that members may attend with the team.
However for the 2021 season I will say anyone who is local to Elsinore, we could use volunteers for events, especially pass the hat! One homestand last year we collected multiple times during three games in a row. After walking up and down the steps in the stands so many times, I could hardly move my legs. In fact after those three games in a row, I got up the next morning and went to go downstairs, only to find that my legs were so cramped up from the previous nights. I had to sit on the stairs and scoot down! So yes, volunteer members to jump in for that kind of stuff from time to time would be more helpful than anyone understands.
Host Family Information:
If there is any advice you can give to future host parents, what would it be?
Honestly, expect the unexpected.
We have hosted five players and have had five different experiences. All positive, but each player is a different person, and I think that’s a big thing to remember. Some sleep in, some are up with you to have coffee in the morning. Some give one word answers until they are comfortable, some are right at home from minute one. Some are homebodies, while others are out with their teammates every chance they get. While at home, some want to stay in their rooms and watch tv, some want to hang out with you. Some want to cook for themselves, others will be happy with everything you put in front of them.
Over the last three seasons we have hosted:
2017: Joey Lucchesi & David Bednar
2018: David Bednar
2019: Steven Wilson, Nick Kuzia, and Gabe Mosser
Booster Club Website:
Instagram – @stormboosterclub
Twitter – @lestormboosters
Facebook – www.facebook.com/lestormboosters
If you want to hear more from Matt and Lora, links to their personal blogs will be down below.
Twitter and Instagram: @grecobon