WINNIPEG – For Tyler Kuhn, success at home plate starts at his home away from home. “It’s made me relaxed this whole season,” said the Winnipeg Goldeyes’ shortstop.
It’s a place where Julie Bubnick rolled out the welcome mat. Kuhn is one of 37 Goldeyes Bubnick has billeted over 21 seasons. It all started when she needed someone to take care of her home while she was on vacation.
“This light bulb came on,” said Bubnick. “Maybe I can help somebody out and I can get my house sitter.”
Bubnick often hosts one player and his family or two Goldeyes per season. In 2011, she invited three players to crash at her place.
“Three was interesting,” said Bubnick. “Things were a little busy around here. But they worked it out.”
With Bubnick opening up her home, it’s allowed Kuhn to open up at the plate. The 27-year-old was named a league all-star after finishing the season with a team leading .360 batting average.
“To be able to have a warm home to come to following a road trip, there’s a lot to that,” said Kuhn.
But it’s not just players who benefit from the Goldeyes’ host family program.
“Young kids can put athletes up on a pedestal,” said Bubnick. “But they’ve got to see that they’re people like everyone else. This is a job that they enjoy, they’re good at it but they work their butts off.”
Bubnick’s home is one of nine housing a Goldeye this season for little more than tickets to a few games. The program has become so popular, the team has had to turn some families away.
“They open their home for these guys and treat them like one of their own,” said Andrew Collier, Goldeyes general manager. It’s not just the one summer. If players come back, they stay with the same family year after year.”
Helping to spark life-long friendships between batters and billets.
“We maintain some kind of communication,” said Bubnick. “There’s been visits and weddings.”
“She’s my host mom,” said Kuhn. “She’s a great friend.”