Fans pledged their hearts to the Portland Pickles even before Mayor Charlie Hales threw out the opening pitch this June. But although Lents' new wood-bat baseball team got a newly renovated pavilion to play in, its players were still missing one very important thing: a home.

Twenty-nine 18 to 22-year-old boys came from all over the country and the world (one's from Australia) to play a 58-game summer season without earning a cent. It's like The Sandlot meets Oliver Twist.

Eighteen generous families—ranging from as far away as Vancouver, Damascus and Happy Valley—volunteered to host the sporting orphans for nothing but season tickets.

They would probably go to the games even if they had to pay; connections between players and host families run deep, and players might arrive on the travel bus with a cooler of cold cuts and chips from their host mom. Pickles host coordinator Amanda Dotson says one of the moms has three boys in her charge, while another hosts four and cooks all of them dinner every night.

"All the host moms, we go above and beyond and try to make them feel comfortable," says Tiffany Elliot, who hosts 21-year-old Marcus Doi from Hawaii along with her husband and their three kids.

(Henry Cromett)
(Henry Cromett)

"Marcus is very independent, so it's harder to mother him," she says.

This summer marks Doi's first trip to Portland, a place he's found similar to Hawaii in its laid-back nature. But he thinks our town's people are a little strange.

"They say 'Keep Portland Weird,' and there are lots of weird people here, a lot of piercings and tattoos in weird places," he says. Still, he says it feels like home.

"If you sit in Section 307, you can hear the moms talk about their boys," Dotson says. "They like getting into it."

There have been no major issues, Dotson says, but she thinks implementing a curfew would be helpful.

"This is the first time some have been away from Mommy, so they're like, 'Freedom!" she says. "When they have three days at home with no games, they go a little wild."

One pack of players who came home very late was greeted with a reaction familiar to errant sons everywhere. "You're not doing church business at 4 am!" the host mom reportedly told them. "There's no reason to be out at that time!"

For the record, Doi says he's been to only one bar, the Dixie Tavern in Old Town. "It was fun," he says.