BOISE-- Living hundreds or even thousands of miles away from home when in your late teens or early twenties is never an easy thing. But combine that with the stress of trying to make it in professional baseball, and things can seem very lonely. The Boise Hawks players here for the summer don't have to worry as much about that, because of their family away from home.
"It makes the transition away from home, with our families, a little more seamless," Hawks pitcher Matt Iannazzo said.
Iannazzo knows what it's like to be away from home. As a professional pitcher in the minor leagues, he has spent much of his last five years away from his family in Norwalk, Connecticut.
"When we get back home, a lot of times my parents, I'm from the East coast, so a lot of times my parents are asleep after a game," he said.
Which is why living with a host family while he is here in Boise makes things a little easier.
"It makes playing here a lot more enjoyable. Because people in the stands know who you are, they have a different connection towards you."
As a way to make things easier on the players, the Hawks Booster Club has been around for years, providing players with room and board, food, and the support of an adopted family, all free of charge.
"Just to be a small part of their journey as they travel up to the pros, it's just fun," host family coordinator Jeanette Kirkpatrick said. "They're great role models for my kids too."
The host families not only provide players with the feeling of home, they also provide peace of mind for the Hawks real families, scattered across the country.
"This is really far away. Having him stay with a host family just makes it easier for me," Iannazzo's real mom, Karen, said. "My anxiety can run a little high sometimes, so it's great for me to know that I have a connection with Jeannette. I know that if there's emergency, that I have a connection with her. And that made me feel better having him so far away."
At the same time, the program provides a bond between adopted son and host family that may last a lifetime.
"We keep in touch with our host families not only on the phone but also through social media, and they see what we're doing," Iannazzo said. "With that being said, we really understand the gravity of what we hold when we come into a family like this."
"It's just fun, they're fun to have. They're good kids, every one of them is a good kid. They're a joy to have in the house, for sure," Kirkpatrick said.
The Hawks Booster Club is always on the lookout for more families to take in players throughout the summer.