Photography by Jason Stephens

As the Tigers’ official Spring Training home, Lakeland has been Matthew and Ashley Boyd’s spring home for the past three years. Learn more about how the community they’ve found in this city has shaped their lives off the field.

Spring means different things to different people. For some, it means beaches and bathing suits, or taxes, cleaning, and seasonal allergies. But for Matthew and Ashley Boyd, this season means one thing: Spring Training. Since 2015, when Matt was acquired by the Detroit Tigers through a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, the dawning of another Major League Baseball season has also meant it was time for the Boyds to make the annual pilgrimage to the Tigers’ Spring Training home here in Lakeland.

The Boyds’ journey to Lakeland takes them about as far as possible from their home in the Pacific Northwest while still being in the continental United States — far away from the familiarity of family and friends. It’s also far from their second home, Detroit, where they spend nearly half the year during the regular season. Needless to say, Lakeland isn’t quite home for the Boyds. It’s not even their home away from home. But for the last five years, Lakeland has become their spring home. And if you were to ask the Boyds, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

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“I love this time. It’s two of the best months out of our year.”

– Matthew Boyd

I met up with Matt and Ashley on the eve of Spring Training to ask them about what this time in Lakeland is like for their family and how the community they’ve found here has shaped their lives off the field.

The Lakelander: What has your Spring Training experience been like here in Lakeland?

Matthew Boyd: When I was traded, coming to Lakeland was stressful because we were wondering, “Are we going to be in the Minors in Toledo? Are we going to Detroit?” So those first few years I probably didn’t enjoy Lakeland as much as I could or should have. But over the last three years it’s been different in that I truly am grateful for where I am, and I love where we’re at. I love Lakeland, and it’s only now looking back where we can see how God was using it to grow us and growing Lakeland on us through the community here even when we didn’t really realize it. So, for me, I love this time. It’s two of the best months out of our year.

Ashley Boyd: Yeah, we always look forward to Spring Training because it’s our time to be together as a family. During the season, Matt’s so busy and on the road so much; then in the off-season, it’s kind of a whirlwind of seeing family and all the people we don’t get to see during the season. So, this time we get in Lakeland is a really intentional time for the four of us while at the same time getting to be a part of an amazing community. Being away from family and friends, we have each other but we still need community, especially now that we have two kids. Our church, Grace City, has been awesome for that. Being able to make friends with other moms and having the kids be able to make friends has been really good.

TL: Three years ago, you started a non-profit organization, Kingdom Home, and you held your first fundraising event here in the area last year. Can you share about Kingdom Home and why you chose Central Florida for your event?

Ashley: Kingdom Home actually started two Spring Trainings ago. We were here at the AirBnB we’ve used the last few years when we’ve been in Lakeland when I got the call from the organization I used to work with about a children’s home in Uganda that’s in need. It’s funny, I was just telling Matt the other day after I hung up from an important phone call with our Board, “You know, a lot has seemed to happen on this patio for us and Kingdom Home over the last three years!”

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Kingdom Home

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The Boyds started Kingdom Home in 2018 to help put an end to child sex slavery. The organization started after the Boyds heard the incredible story of a woman named Dorothy, who had been a victim of violence and nearly sold as a child bride herself. Today, Dorothy has dedicated her life to helping children escape the injustice she once faced. Together with her husband, Dorothy selflessly brought in 36 girls who had been rescued from child sex slavery and had nowhere else to go. Kingdom Home partnered with Dorothy’s home in 2018, and today she is still caring for those 36 girls as well as her own three children.

Starting with one girls’ home, Kingdom Home currently has four homes: one boys’ and three girls’, all in Uganda.

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Matthew: We knew we wanted to start a non-profit, but we just weren’t sure what it would be exactly or when would be a good time to start it. I was in the Minors the year before, and we were still uncertain about what the next few years would look like. So, when Carl [Ralston], who founded Remember Nhu, the non-profit Ashley used to work for, called and told us about Dorothy’s story [see sidebar], we took 24 hours to talk and pray about it. We prayed and eventually we got to this place where we were like, “You know, is there ever going to be a good time to start a non-profit?” So, we decided to go for it and just trust that God was able and He was going to make a way. From that point on, the Lord has truly provided every step of the way.

When it came to our first fundraising event, it just felt right to do it here. We were like, “Where are we going to do a fundraiser? Well, we started Kingdom Home here, right? What better place to hold our first fundraiser than near the place it all began.” Between that connection and the backing of the Tigers and our church family here, we knew this is where we wanted it to be.

As the 2020 MLB season gets under way, the Boyds don’t know what curveballs will get thrown their way, and that’s quite alright by them. Because no matter what, they will have their faith, each other, and a special place in their heart for this special place they’ve been able to call home for two months each spring.