The Lacos have only had Matt Higgins in their home for a couple months now, but it hasn’t taken long for him to reach older brother status with siblings Julia and Trey. From jumping together on the trampoline, to talking baseball stats, the kids have gotten used to having the 20-year-old Rivets outfielder around.
The Kentucky native has gotten pretty close with his host family in a short amount of time. With such a busy schedule though, he doesn’t see them as much as he or the family would like.
“But sometimes they’ll be up when I’m up and they’ll make me breakfast or something,” Higgins said.
“They have a very busy schedule,” Ed Laco says. “They’re on the road a lot. They work out and on days where they have a 6:30 game, they usually get to the field about one or two’o’clock, so they’re out the door.”
While the Lacos consider Matt family now, they were a little hesitant about the idea of inviting a stranger into their home.
“With having the kids and just our full schedule, I didn’t know how it would be having an extra person in the house but it’s been great,” Jill Laco admits.
Rivets General Manager Chad Bauer says he estimates about 3/4 of the team is placed with a host family. They start their search and screen potential families at the end of every season. Their host family coordinator Sally makes sure players are provided with everyday essentials.
“Stuff like ‘We need players to have a room with a bed. Basic stuff. Are you going to be okay feeding these guys?'” Bauer said.
These families aren’t paid a dime either, but the Lacos are more than okay with feeding Higgins.
“We text with him and he’s such a nice, polite guy,” Jill says. “He’ll say stuff like ‘I’m headin’ home now’. So he does feel a sense of this is his home for the summer and we want him to feel that way. I’ll say ‘Well did they feed you well? Do you need some food?’ We kind of talk that way and I’ll say ‘I’ll put something in the oven for you,’ and we will. We’ll do that for him.”
Families get free tickets to games and Wednesday night in Madison was the first time the family had followed Higgins to an away game.
“They’re like my biggest fans here,” Higgins said. “They come to almost every game. They’re cheering on me all the time. It’s just great to have them out there.”
“We’re really getting to know him and when we see him at the games it’s more exciting for us to cheer on someone that we really feel connected to,” Jill said.
While being away from family in Kentucky isn’t always the easiest, Higgins says the Laco’s do a pretty good job at making this feel like a second home.
“They take care of me really well and it makes it a lot easier being six hours from home,” Higgins said. “They’re freakin’ awesome.”
If you’re interested in becoming a host family for The Rockford Rivets, you can call them at (815) 240-4159 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.