Why do the Sweets Use Host Families…and how your family can help

Walla Walla, Wash. – With the 2018 season just a month away, the Sweets are still in search for a few families interested in hosting players for the summer. The host family program is one of the most integral pieces of community involvement with the Sweets, and the club wants your family to join the team!

“As we approach nine years of #SweetsCountry, I look back on the relationships built and maintained through our host family program – it is truly special and unique to the West Coast League in the caliber of the families and experiences players receive,” said team president Zachary Fraser. “I invite you and your family to become part of one of the best, most community-centered groups in the Walla Walla Valley and host a Sweets player this season.”

Last week, Fraser shared a letter on his personal Facebook page outlining the specific reasons why host families are used at this level of the game. Here are some of those reasons (as quoted from the letter):

Financial. Bluntly, there is no way that we can afford to house 30-35 players for three months at the expense of the team. It would total more than $70,000 a year – and that is assuming housing (about 8-10 homes, housing 4-5 players per home) would be available for a 3-month lease. Dorms are not an option. That $70K includes rent and utilities. It doesn’t include furniture, appliances, etc. Like most small businesses in Walla Walla, our margins are razor-thin when not non-existent. To pass that kind of cost to our customers/fans (a common comment) would not work (unless Walla Walla is ready for $20 bleacher seats at Borleske). We’re already juggling the advent and arrival of $15/hr minimum wage without burying our customers with cost increases. Most of you have seen where I live – the 1948 rambler with the rustic fence isn’t glamourous only because I’m siphoning off huge profits and keeping my family well-heeled – it’s because I’m so handy around the house (please note the dripping sarcasm). In all seriousness, every dollar greater than expenses is often poured back into the program, developing people and product and facilities, recruiting better players, and donating cash and services to dozens of non-profits in the Valley. I’m high-fiving my partners when the single-digit number at the end of the season is a black one, not red.

Integration. The reason the Sweets are Walla Walla’s team – after 9 years – has almost everything to do with the fact that, to the best of their limited ability, our players are integrated into the community. There are 200 people EVERY NIGHT that line the 3rd base fence to get autographs because the players are accessible. I’ve seen our players out with their families and host families shopping and eating and engaging our advertiser’s businesses. Our former players COME BACK to visit because this place feels like home in large part because of the host family program.

It is the model, even in professional baseball. Players are hosted in local homes in all levels of game, even in professional baseball (typically through at least single-A baseball and in a few markets in AA-ball, although very rare). Points #1 and #2 are some of the reason why, but I personally believe that it is one of the traditions that keeps the game and communities connected. If there is a better model – that accomplishes #’s 1 and 2 – I am all ears. It is also what I would hope happens for our kids when they pursue something like this in a strange community.

Rosanna Morgan has been a host for the Walla Walla Sweets since the team’s first season back in 2010. She decided to become a host because she wanted to “grow” her family and said that the experience has been far more rewarding than she could have ever expected.

“We really did grow our family, but so much more than we ever could have expected,” Morgan said. “Regardless of the years that pass, we keep in contact to share what’s going on in the family. We have seen the players move on and begin their careers, and one has even gotten married. Our family has truly grown all by simply hosting a Sweets player for the summer.”

Host families will be invited to a private host family and player barbeque at the end of the season and will also be recognized on-field at Borleske Stadium prior to a game near the end of the season for their contributions to the Sweets organization and their individual players. Each member of the host family household will also receive a General Admission season ticket and 20% off all merchandise and apparel in the Sweets Shoppe throughout the 2018 season.

For more information, including learning what the host family expectations are and the additional benefits and commitments that come with being a host family, please visit the Host Family page on our website here: Sweets Host Family Page

By: Brandon Pavlina

Date: May 5, 2018