GREAT FALLS — One look around Donna Burdette’s house will reveal she’s a huge fan of baseball. But, at 77 years old, she’s not just any fan. Burdette has been a host mom for the Great Falls Voyagers since 2011, primarily for the team’s Latino players.
“First two we got — one was from Panama, one was from Venezuela — and that’s the way it’s gone ever since,” Burdette said. “I take as many as I can that they bring because I like to keep them together. They feel at home, I think.”
She’s hosted 27 players since she started, including a season with five. She does it despite being unable to speak Spanish fluently. She and the players often use cell phone translators.
“And their English is more than they want to let on, but I think they’re afraid to use their English for fear they’ll say it wrong. So I’ll try something in Spanish, which is never right. Then they feel at ease,” she said.
Burdette keeps in touch with nearly every player she’s hosted. She follows their careers on TV and radio, and she’s even been invited to weddings.
“Now it seems to me I have several grandchildren all over Latin America because they send me pictures, and it’s ‘Nana, you have a new baby,’” Burdette said.
The bonds Burdette and her players form make the end of the season that much harder.
“It’s tough. They become part of your family. All of them are still in my heart,” Burdette said. “Like I say, ‘Keep in touch,’ and that really makes it a lot better.”