TRAVERSE CITY —You might not know it, but reigning Frontier League MVP Jose Vargas is a bit of a joker.
The Traverse City Beach Bums slugger usually keeps a straight face in public.
But around his host family, it’s another matter.
“There’s a lot of practical jokes going on in the house,” said Sharon Higaki, who hosts three Beach Bums players this year along with her husband Wayne. “I have to be on my toes, absolutely. At first with Jose, it was like, ‘Is he kidding or is he serious about something?’ And then he’d just flash that smile of his and I’d go, ‘You got me again, didn’t you?’”
Vargas is in his third season with the Beach Bums — and also his third year staying with the Higakis.
In 2011, Vargas and Hector Bernal arrived home from Wuerfel Park one day. They groused about having to walk five miles in the summer heat to the Higakis house on South Airport Road.
Sharon went for it and told them they should have called her and she would have picked them up. Then Jose started smiling.
“He asked about helping me with cooking,” Higaki joked. “He hasn’t done it yet, but he asked about it.”
One time she got him back when he texted her to say he was returning to the team for another season. She replied, asking who he was staying with.
“He said, ‘Can I stay with you?’” she said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I was kidding. Of course you’re staying with us.’”
On the field, Vargas is no joke. And pitchers take him very seriously.
The free-swinging third baseman hit 29 home runs and drove in a Frontier League record-tying 100 runs. In two years, he hasn’t missed a single one of the Bums’ 192 regular-season games.