A couple of Minor League Baseball players in Indiana have found a new fanbase, so to speak, in the 400 or so senior living residents they now call their neighbors.
Two South Bend Cubs pitchers, 21-year-old Carson Sands and 23-year-old Craig Brooks, have taken up residence at Sanctuary at St. Paul’s, a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in South Bend, Indiana, that’s owned and operated by Michigan-based Trinity Senior Living Communities and affiliated with Mishawaka, Indiana-based Saint Joseph Health System.
“I think it’s the first time it’s ever been done in Minor League Baseball,” South Bend Cubs President Joe Hart tells Senior Housing News.
The idea came about over breakfast, when Hart, St. Paul’s Executive Director Shari Binkley and representatives from Saint Joseph Health System were talking baseball. The conversation turned to how South Bend Cubs players—many living on their own and away from home for the first time—are tasked with finding housing during the season.
“We had two studio apartments available,” Binkley tells SHN. “Sometimes you just have a feeling about something, and you know it’s the right thing.”
That initial conversation took place on a Friday, and by the following Wednesday two South Bend Cubs players had moved into St. Paul’s for the season, free of charge.
“We just talked about it, and figured out a way to make it work,” Hart says. “We put the program together in about five days, literally.”
Cupcakes and autographs for ‘their guys’
When the move-in was initially conceived, it was anticipated that the benefit would come in the form of intergenerational programming for St. Paul’s residents, Binkley says. Hart had that in mind when prepping the players to live in the community.
“The biggest thing we impressed upon the players is to interact with the residents,” Hart says. That ended up not being a problem.
When they’re in town, Sands and Brooks have breakfast and lunch with St. Paul’s residents, who have been known to bake the players cupcakes and ask them for autographs, just in case they make it big. At St. Paul’s, the residents affectionally call Sands and Brooks “their guys,” and even insisted on securing them their own mailboxes.
“They’re really becoming part of the fabric of St. Paul’s,” Brinkley says.
The addition of the players has also resulted in some residents coming out of their shells in new ways. One St. Paul’s resident of 3.5 years revealed he’s been a diehard Cubs fan all his life, a fact previously unbeknownst to Binkley.
‘Ongoing, intergenerational programming’
The partnership between the South Bend Cubs and St. Paul’s seems to be benefitting everyone involved. St. Paul’s residents now have have extra incentive to go to South Bend Cubs home games, which keeps them active and benefits the team.
“From our standpoint, it gives us the opportunity to keep these seniors as customers,” Hart says. Plus, it gives South Bend Cubs players a nice landing point, he says.
“One of the players is 13 hours away from home, and now he feels like he has family to help him out,” Hart explains.
Binkley is confident the program will continue for years to come.
“I don’t think my residents would only let it happen one year,” she says. “In my mind, this will be ongoing, intergenerational programming.”
Written by Mary Kate Nelson