For players participating in summer collegiate baseball, it's often a rite of passage -- if not a requirement altogether -- to stay with a host family in whatever town you choose to call home for a few months.
Sometimes the transition can be a bit awkward or hard to process at first, for both the players and the host families themselves. More times than not, however, it provides a memorable summer experience for all parties.
According to Owensboro RiverDawgs coach Vic Evans Jr., it's a necessity.
"I think it's probably the most important thing for our team," Evans said. "Not just for our team, but our whole league, too. Every team in the Ohio Valley League does it, and it's a huge part of what we do. For us to be successful and continue as a franchise, finding host families for our players is always a top priority.
"I think once people do it once, they realize what it's all about -- all these guys need is a bed to sleep in and a washer and dryer to do laundry -- they really come to find out how much they enjoy it."
Life in summer baseball is relatively simple: Wake up, go eat, work out, practice, play games, enjoy some free time, go to sleep, repeat.
When Carey Turner and her husband, Matt, agreed to host first-year RiverDawgs Caleb Dubois and Kyle Hogwood, teammates from Paris Junior College in Texas, she wasn't sure what to expect.
"We had no idea about it or what all goes into it," Turner recalled, "but we thought why not? This is something really different, but it could also turn out to be one of the best summers ever.
"These guys have been great. They're really just two polite, nice boys. It's been wonderful so far."
It's not like the Turner family had an empty home, either. With two small children -- Tyler, 7, and Reagan, 6 -- and 9-month-old puppy Teddy, they could have decided their plates were already too full. However, the opportunity was too unique to pass up.
The players are thankful for that, as well.
"We're enjoying it," Hogwood said, as the whole family gathered in the backyard Monday afternoon. "We get to play baseball every day. It's a nice house. I've got a little brother about Tyler's age, so it's not much different from home."
"I think it's pretty cool," he said. "You sometimes hear stories about guys who don't have good experiences, but this is cool. I've had a really good time so far."
If anything, Turner said, it's like she has two new college-aged sons to care for. Like any mother, she does have some ground rules for the house.
"No drinking and no girls," she said, laughing. "They just looked at me and said, 'Yes, ma'am.'"
Hogwood and Dubois share the Turners' basement, where they've placed two beds and often play video games or hang out later in the evenings. It didn't take long for them to ingrain themselves into the family, either.
"It's been great," Hogwood said. "They're really caring. They try to let us do our own thing and don't swarm over us. We can work out when we want, we've got our own area, and they give us everything we need. They've been great."
For Ken Badylak, the head golf coach and assistant director of athletic communications at Kentucky Wesleyan College, opening his home as a host was a no-brainer.
"It's been pretty good," said Badylak, who is also hosting a pair of teammates -- Mike Wymann and Huston Richter from Saint Leo (Florida). "I get a kick out of talking to those two dudes in the evening or whenever they're around. I try to make them feel welcome and try to get them to a point where they feel like they're at home."
Badylak first learned of the hosting opportunity last year when former RiverDawg PJ Barry served as an intern at KWC. Once Badylak closed on his house in Owensboro last September, he knew it was something he wanted to do -- despite not knowing what to expect, either.
"I had very little expectations of it, other than providing them a comfortable environment," he said. "They're hilarious, though. They're just two really nice kids.
"When I first got started in sports information and business, there were very few people who would reach out and offer their assistance willingly. I wanted to make sure if I could ever do something like that for people who needed it, I definitely would."
And, as a college coach, Badylak understands exactly what the RiverDawgs' players are trying to achieve this summer.
"They're doing it to get better because they have dreams and aspirations," he said. "The only way to do that is to get more reps. They're trying to get better and trying to get noticed.
"At the end of the day, they want to help their college teams win in May, they want to win conference championships, and they want to perform in the NCAA Tournament and on the biggest stage. ... Whatever I can do to help them out, I think it's worth it."
As an added benefit, RiverDawgs host families typically receive free game passes, as well as tickets to Triple-A minor league games in Nashville and Louisville.
However, Evans noted, very few hosts actually do it for the incentives.
"A lot of these hosts, they form life-long bonds with these players," Evans said. "(Former Owensboro Catholic star) Neil Holland told me when he got married, he had three different families from three different summer leagues at his wedding. A lot of times, these host families actually become like an extended family."
Any families interested in hosting, either for this year or next, can contact Evans through the RiverDawgs' Twitter or Facebook pages.