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KC Cougars

Date nights often have to wait

Ballplayers' wives pick their spots for down-time diversions

Shayli and Jake Hannemann (center), who have been married since September 2013, with Megan, 9, Eric and Rachel Kingston, stayed at the St. Charles home of Eric and Rachel Kingston during Jake's time as a Kane County Cougars player.
Shayli and Jake Hannemann (center), who have been married since September 2013, with Megan, 9, Eric and Rachel Kingston, stayed at the St. Charles home of Eric and Rachel Kingston during Jake's time as a Kane County Cougars player.

GENEVA – Rachel Bote and Shayli Hannemann giggle at the notion of an opera to be named later.

As baseball wives, the spouses of infielder David Bote and outfielder Jake Hannemann aren’t waiting until the offseason to strike for equal time.

With baseball teams spending half their time on the road as it is, both couples realize it’s imperative to diversify their experience while living in a new part of the country.

“They’re really good about off days are good date nights,” Rachel Bote said. “We get our time to have some fun.”

David Bote was sent down Thursday from the Kane County Cougars to Short-A Boise, while Jake Hannemann was promoted one day earlier from the Cougars to Advanced-A Daytona. Both, however, spent the bulk of their first full seasons as married ballplayers in Kane County.

The Hannemanns walked Third Street in Geneva earlier this season, while the Botes enjoyed exploring Chicago.

Both couples could list a few favorite places for food other than Fifth Third Bank Ballpark, as well as some parks near their host family residences.

The Botes, who stayed with the Robey family of Carol Stream, embraced a full house of players who also included right-handers Zak Hermans, James Pugliese and Michael Wagner. The Botes had their own space and bathroom.

Rachel Bote often visited other parts of the suburbs with her host parents when the team was away, speaking especially fondly of a recent trip to The Morton Aboretum in Lisle.

“It’s been so wonderful. It’s really great, too,” she said. “These people just welcome you into their home and then even more than that – both of you as a part of their family.”

Before his wife moved in after studying at Brigham Young University for the spring semester, Jake Hannemann bonded with the four daughters of St. Charles couple Eric and Rachel Kingston enough that the quartet considered him a long-lost brother.

Hannemann lived elsewhere during the first few weeks of the season before calling the nearest congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – of which he is a member – about prospective lodging.

He followed the same pattern while playing with the parent Cubs’ affiliates at Rookie League Arizona and Short-A Boise last season and now faces a similar call in Daytona.

“We don’t really feel stressed moving here and there just because our church is worldwide,” Jake Hannemann said. “We just call our church up and they usually help out.”

In April, Eric Kingston, the bishop of one LDS congregation on Old Kirk Road, a short drive across the street from Fifth Third Bank Ballpark, asked Hannemann to join the family for Easter Sunday dinner. The plan was to discuss placing him with a Mormon family nearby. By the end of the meal, Hannemann and his soon-to-arrive wife had the Kingstons’ St. Charles basement if they wanted it.

The Kingston children – Sydney, 16; Kennedy, 14; Addison, 11 and Megan, 9 – quickly warmed to Shayli Hannemann, too. A would-be older sister who jokes and offers occasional wardrobe input, she often took the group for milkshakes after dropping her husband off at the ballpark on home game afternoons.

Countless card games, movies and Hawaiian Punch floats later, the Kingstons figured their girls would cry at the news of the Hannemanns’ departure.

“Our children have noticed, you know, that they have really positive attitudes and they notice how appreciative they are of each other,” Rachel Kingston said. “We’re glad that they’ve seen that in another couple, not just mom and dad. … They’ve not just been part of our family; they’ve been positive role models for good relationships and how to treat one another.”

Of course, it all comes back to the ballpark, where Bote and Hannemann’s better halves don’t exactly toil.

Although Shayli Hannemann missed last week’s road trip to Lansing and Great Lakes to visit family in Utah, she traveled to a majority of away games since arriving in the Fox Valley. That makes her the dean of Cougars significant others, at least in terms of innings watched.

There’s a group, to be sure. Throughout the season, Shayli Hannemann and Rachel Bote have befriended several players’ girlfriends and invited them to sit nearby.

“It’s been awesome,” Shayli Hannemann said, “because we met them at the beginning and then they just continue to come back. So it’s this ongoing friendship that we just continue to build on.”

“And they’re supportive, too,” added Rachel Bote. “We get [texts] from them. ‘Oh, he got a homer,’ or, ‘He got a great hit,’ or something. And it’s like friends from all around the world, literally, that we’re meeting.”

With their husbands playing together at Short-A Boise for parts of 2013, Bote and Hannemann, then sporting only engagement rings, grew accustomed to visiting the ballpark with their families.

Both clans boast strong baseball foundations. David Bote’s father, Bob, was a longtime prep baseball coach in Colorado who assisted another son, Danny, when Faith Christian won a Colorado state title in David Bote’s senior season in 2011.

Hannemann, born Shayli Johnston, attended several games in her native Orem, Utah, growing up. The Orem Owlz, a Los Angeles Angels Rookie League affiliate, play about 45 minutes south of the Angels’ Triple-A club in Salt Lake City, another baseball destination trip for the Johnstons.

In Boise, Hawks manager Gary Van Tol beamed while watching David Bote and Jake Hannemann begin to establish themselves both as young men and minor league prospects. He saw a developmental version of the life he currently enjoys.

Now in his seventh season with the Hawks and second as manager, Van Tol welcomes his wife, Chrissy, and four children as fixtures at the ballpark and in the clubhouse. The family lives in Boise year-round, with Chrissy Van Tol working as an official in the Boise State athletic department.

“It’s great that baseball accepts that because of the grind and the time that you’re away from your family,” Gary Van Tol said. “Having your family at the ballpark is allowed and welcomed, as long as the kids don’t get in the way and make sure that you can still do your job and there’s no distractions. And there usually isn’t a problem, and it’s a great experience for everybody.”

The Botes and Hannemanns realize plenty must go their way to reach such a family stage. Being alongside their husbands in the game of potential major league advancement constantly offers new wrinkles.

Much like marriage, navigating through the process hinges on faith, love, trust and good fortune.

And if you’re adept at handling curveballs, all the better.

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