WESTLAKE – Not many area baseball fans have gotten to see Lake Erie Crushers pitcher Josh Faiola perform on the mound, but those who were in attendance during the team`s meet and greet Tuesday night at The Belvedere will tell you the young right-hander can deliver a punch line.
“I had shoulder surgery a couple years ago, and I thought that might be one of the reasons they put me in an assisted-living facility,” Faiola said, getting laughs from the crowd. “I have my own apartment here, and I can come and go as I please. They don`t make me go to bed early or anything.”
Faiola, 25, and his wife Allison will be living at The Belvedere during the summer as Faiola competes with the Crushers in the independent Frontier League.
“I read about the host family program in the newspaper and thought it would be mutually beneficial to our residents and the player to have him stay with us at The Belvedere,” owner/administrator Cindy Griffiths-Novak said in a Crushers release. “When I pitched it to our residents, they voted overwhelmingly to give it a try.”
So Griffiths-Novak and her husband, Steve, gave the Crushers a call.
“We were approached by The Belvedere, and we came out and did a site visit like we did with all the other host families,” said Nicolle Meyer, team director of media relations. “They showed us the suite, and it was amazing. Any player that I placed here, I knew was going to be extremely lucky.”
Lucky because the accommodations were great – the suite, which normally runs around $5,000 per month according to a rates sheet provided by The Belvedere, includes a kitchenette, flat-screen TV and a washer and dryer – and also because the facility has gone out of its way to make the Faiolas and the Crushers know they have The Belvedere`s full support.
“When I first pulled up and walked through the front doors, I saw the 40-foot long sign and I said, â€˜Uh oh — pressure,` ” Josh said. “They`ve had everything decorated almost every single day. They`ve really welcomed me, and it`s been nice getting to meet all the people who work here.”
The huge banner hanging across The Belvedere`s lobby reads: “Welcome Josh, You`re a Big â€˜Hit` at The Belvedere.” Baseball-shaped pinatas hang from the ceiling, baseball cards and baseball trivia questions are taped on the walls, and the staff placed bowls of peanuts on the tables and sold hot dogs and soda in the adjoining cafe for Tuesday night`s event.
“The first time I talked to Cindy, which is my host mom, she said, â€˜Well, you definitely have the most fans out of any player already,` ” Josh said. “I definitely do, so I`ll have something to live up to. It`ll be nice because I`m pretty sure they all have tickets for opening game. It`ll be nice to have them there.”
Faiola will begin the season in the Crushers` starting rotation. He grew up in Pueblo, Colo., and played at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. It was at Dartmouth that he met Allison.
“One of my really good childhood friends played with him up there,” Allison said. “He said to me, â€˜I got this guy you really need to meet.` ”
Faiola was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 2005 but decided not to sign so he could finish his senior year at Dartmouth and then was drafted by the Orioles again in 2006. He spent his first year on the Orioles rookie team – going 2-0, and striking out 35 batters in 36 innings pitched – and then tore his labrum. He rehabbed the shoulder for the next two seasons and was released by the Orioles after spring training in March.
Allison showed she could match her husband with the quick wit. As she was giving a tour of the couple`s room, she talked about how The Belvedere also provided daily meals for Josh.
“I told them I didn`t think that was a good idea, because he was going to expect that from me when we went back home,” she said.
Allison also provided her husband some comic relief when he broke the news that they`d be staying in an assisted-living facility for the next four months.
“As soon as she heard that, she said, â€˜That`s going to be fun,`” Josh said. “One of her first questions was she wanted to know if they play bingo, because she`d go play with her grandparents when she was a kid. So she`s definitely excited about that.”
“I was like, â€˜Ooooh — Bingo!`” Allison said. “It`ll be a good opportunity to get some quality bingo time in.”
The couple also seemed excited about their new “roommates” – the other residents in the 33 suites at The Belvedere.
“We want to meet everyone and get to know some of the people that live here,” Allison said. “They`ve got great stories, and they`ve led great lives. You want to talk to people from this generation and hear what they have to say — because they know more than we do.”
The young couple laughed and chatted with residents and soon-to-be fans as they began filling up the lobby before the news conference kicked off. Many of the residents and staff members already seemed to know them and treated them as if they`d been living at the facility for months.
“It`s worked out so much better than I could have imagined,” the Crushers` Meyer said. “I think it says a lot about Josh and his wife — they`re just great people.”