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The Walla Walla Sweets are preparing for their second West Coast League season, and host families have found that having Sweets players in their homes for the summer is rewarding.

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Walla Walla Sweets and college teammates Scott Gottschling (center) and Christian Ramirez (right) talk with host family member Jim Dumont at the Sweets' Host Family barbecue before an afternoon game last Aug. 1.

WALLA WALLA - As many Walla Walla Sweets fans gear up for another summer of baseball, a smaller group of fans is readying their homes and pantries for what's to come.

Each of the Sweets coming to town need a place to stay - and that translates into local families welcoming a college-aged ballplayer into their homes for the summer.

Daunting as it might sound, the Sweets host parents are looking forward to it, and a few more families are still needed.

"It's a wonderful experience to have," said Rosanna Morgan, a second-year host mom and the co-chair of the Sweets Booster Club. "I still keep in touch with my player from last summer, who's not returning ... Walla Walla being the community that it is, we're always very open-armed, and the experience last year was so great. We're looking forward to this summer."

Morgan and Debbie Dumont are co-chairing the Booster Club, a new organization for Sweets host parents. The club will help give the families - about 35 of them - a group to turn to and ideas for things like meal preparation, transportation and scheduling.

So far, the group has been well received, Morgan said.

"People have asked a lot of questions, both returning families and new ones," she said. "Obviously, people can always go talk to the Sweets, but a lot of those questions come back to us."

Although many host families have players all summer, there's also a need for 10-day homes, said Beth Swanson, the Sweets community relation coordinator.

"We have a great group of host families and we just need a few more," Swanson said.

Sweets host families are responsible for housing and feeding their player, as well as providing transportation to and from games if the Sweet in question lacks a ride. The families get season tickets for each person in the household, a 20 percent discount at the Sweets Shoppe and a reserved parking spot at Borleske Stadium.

There are also several events for families, including a media day June 1 and Host Family Night at the ballpark, which hasn't yet been scheduled.

So far, there are 29 host families, Swanson said. There are currently 34 players on the team, and some families have more than one player. Of the 29 families, 13 are returning from last year.

And there's no typical family.

Some are recent empty-nesters, with kids who've left home and parents with an extra room.

Others, like Morgan, have young children and see bringing a Sweets player in as a chance for the kids to have someone to look up to.

Last summer's positive experience clinched Morgan's desire to stay involved.

"It turned out to be so much more than we thought," she said. "If you've got kids, it's a big-brother experience, and it met our expectations and went well beyond them. We've stayed in touch with our player (Zach Clanton from Lewis-Clark State)."

Morgan and Dumont came together last season and decided that having some organization within the host families would make everything run a little smoother.

"We thought it would be neat if we could do this," she said. "From our perspective, we were seeing what was needed and wanted and what we could do to smooth the process. We approached the Sweets organization and talked about it, and they were very receptive.

"The whole management team does quite a bit in signing players and all that, and we felt we could provide some assistance with coordinating and getting host families together sooner, so they could know each other, sit in a group at the ballpark, organize carpooling - all of those kinds of things."

One of the immediate changes the Booster Club implemented was a questionnaire for players and families, with questions about allergies, transportation and willingness to roommate.

"We wanted to do a good job of matching kids with families," Swanson said. "That made it a lot easier for us to place them."

The season starts June 3. Most of the players will arrive in Walla Walla at the end of May, although some won't show up until June, depending on their academic calendars and their school's baseball postseason hopes. There are about 70 games during the summer, with half of those on the road.

Although housing a player isn't offering up a hotel or room service, it is bringing a young man into a home.

"They're like any other part of the family," Morgan said. "It's a lot of fun and we continue to build relationships with host families as a whole and continue the community atmosphere and the family-feel with players. That's how Walla Walla is."

For more information or to host a player, contact Beth Swanson at beth@wallawallasweets.com or Morgan at hostfamily@wallawallasweets.com.

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