This summer will mark the third year Shelter Island is home to the Bucks, a member of the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League. One reason the Bucks are back on the Island again this coming summer is because of the families who host players and make the season possible.
Host families are an essential part of summer leagues across the country for college baseball players. These families are asked to provide players with a bed, a place to store some food and laundry facilities. Although nothing more is required from the families, Islanders who have hosted players have learned they usually come away with much more from the experience than they’ve given.
Bucks’ General Manager Dave Gurney said one of the easiest aspects of his job is hearing about the connections families have made with players. While he admits there have been some rough patches with players, there are also a lot of positive stories.
Proof of this is that players who played on the Island in the past are coming back this season. Infielder Jimmy Jack and pitcher Jon Young are two players who are back with the families they stayed retrurning to families they stayed with in 2013.
Colleen Smith and Frank Emmett hosted Jimmy Jack last year and are looking forward to seeing him again.
“He brought life to the house,” Ms. Smith said. “He was fun to cook for, everybody’s dream son. Jimmy would do anything you asked for.”
She also said hosting the young player was “A way of giving back to the community.”
Mr. Gurney and his family hosted pitcher Jeff Sanner last summer. They kept in touch after the season, speaking frequently, and the GM said that the time the young athlete spent with his kids was truly memorable.
Even though Jeff will not be coming back to play for the Bucks this summer, Mr. Gurney still checked box scores online when he pitched at his school all spring.
The process of finding host families begins during the previous summer when Mr. Gurney frequently keeps in touch with families to make sure all is going well. Usually he will get a sense if they will be open to hosting again, before he really “starts pressing” them after Thanksgiving.
This year Mr. Gurney did have some extra work finding families. “We lost about five or six houses due to families needing breaks [from hosting] or having something else going on,” he said.
In order to find new hosts, he asks families with good experiences to talk about them to others, and he also kept signs out all winter saying “Bucks Need Housing.” Reaching out to Island churches has also helped.
A successful pitch to attract families? Telling them they “could have a future MLB star staying in their house” hasn’t hurt, Mr. Gurney said.
Once families do make the commitment to host a player or two they can start to see who might be living with them in April when rosters are set. According to Mr. Gurney, families who know for sure they will be hosting, look at the roster and see if there are any boys from colleges they like.
Players are beginning to arrive from around the country this week. Two new coaches will be leading the team — Head Coach Jon Karcich and Pitching Coach Gerald Smiley. Mr. Gurney said their goal is leading the team back to the playoffs and winning a championship.
The Bucks’ inaugural season in 2012 was a success on the field with the team winning the regular season league championship, but 2013 saw the team struggle down the stretch and miss the playoffs.
With the Bucks’ season kicking off on Sunday at Fiske Field, Mr. Gurney said he’s always looking for more help running the team.
If you want to help and be part of the Bucks season, contact Dave Gurney at 433-1502, or email him at [email protected]