MONTPELIER, Vt. -
It is baseball season again in the Capital City with the Vermont Mountaineers opening their home season over the past weekend.
Ever since the collegiate summer league team returned in 2003, it's had a loyal fan base. One reason for that may be its firm roots in the community.
Among the crowd of fans attending Vermont Mountaineer games this summer, there are small handfuls that stand out. Brian and Caroline Murphy's family are not only fans, they’re Mountaineer hosts, putting up two of the team's 20 or so players for the summer.
Third basemen Robbie Knightes and outfielder Alex Caruso are having some down time after a late away game in Maine. Is it time for them to grab a late breakfast or is it lunch?
"I usually don't skip breakfast but today I did," said Knightes.
Whether it's playing a home game at the Montpelier Rec field, or relaxing in the Murphys' living room, the college ballplayers from New York say they're grateful to have this home away from home.
"It's nice to actually have a nice family that actually cares about you, to have a nice bed and a nice roommate like Alex from my school," said Knightes.
"It’s unbelievable the way the town almost, like, adopts each kid like they love it. I admire that and think it’s unbelievable," said Caruso.
And for the Murphys, who've hosted three years now and continue to stay in touch with their old players, they wouldn't have it any other way.
"Having the Mountaineers in Central Vermont is a great part of summertime here. And it's a nonprofit, community-run organization that at a certain point, if we want to have these nice things in our community, we all have to step up and do our part at a certain point and this is the way we do our part," said Brian.
Host families aren't compensated other than season tickets. They provide a room and full fridge for a 10-11 week season.
"We've been going through the milk and cereal pretty quickly. We usually wake up late and that’s the main meal, cereal," said Caruso.
The Murphys say their adopted players' appetites have not been overwhelming and for these parents of two young kids, hosting has provided unique insights into the college years ahead.
"I can only hope that my kids come home and want to do their own laundry and all those other things," said Caroline.
The players are responsible for providing their own transportation, telephone and of course, good behavior.
"No, no parties here. There's little kids running around and they're real nice kids, so no parties, we got to set an example for them," said Caruso.
This summer 19 local families will be hosting players. Not only does it build community, it's essential for the team's bottom line.
"The host families are the backbone of the team. Without the host families to be able to place 30 players and five coaches in a host situation, we wouldn't be able to do that," said Brian Gallagher, the general manager of the Mountaineers.
In the team's 11-year history, a number of players have gone on to baseball careers, a half dozen in the majors.
"They've had a lot of players go pro and we're hoping to do the same here," said Knightes.
"They're really nice, smart, funny, affable guys and so it's nice to be able to have that connection with them. If they happen to go and play some higher level ball, we'll be rooting for them, but that's just a sidelight to everything," said Caroline.
Making these Mountaineers feel welcome in their adopted hometown.
The Vermont Lake Monsters also have a host family program. See below for more info on each club’s programs.
Vermont Lake Monsters:http://www.milb.com/content/page.jsp?ymd=20090219&content_id=41000570&sid=t462&vkey=team3