03/16/2016 2:27 PM
Robin and Cheryl Reitmeyer post with outfielder Robby Kuzdale (left) before an on-field host family recognition ceremony. (Photo courtesy of Cheryl Reitmeyer.)
By MATT FULKS
They say it doesn’t take long to get hooked.
It certainly didn’t for Cheryl Reitmeyer. In fact, within 12 months Cheryl and her husband Robin went from attending their first Kansas City T-Bones game at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, to purchasing season tickets, to becoming a host family.
“Even though I’m from this area, during the 10 years Robin and I were living in Topeka and visiting Kansas City, the timing never worked out to attend a game,” Reitmeyer said. “As soon as we moved back, I really wanted to go to a game. After going to our first game in 2012, I came home and told Robin, ‘We need to buy season tickets.’
“At the end of the season, after sitting next to a host family throughout the season, we were invited to a host family party in one of the suites. I absolutely enjoyed it and knew right then that we needed to be a host family.”
So, in 2013, the Reitmeyers became a host family. Cheryl’s enjoyed the experience so much that she became the volunteer coordinator for the program.
“I volunteered to help because I have passion for the players, the program, the T-Bones and the sport,” she said.
So, what is a “host family”? At its most basic, a host family provides room and board for T-Bones players throughout a season, starting in late April or early May, through early-mid September. Families are expected to offer each player his own living space, an occasional meal and a comfortable environment during the season. Most families host one or two players, depending on space.
“Before a player gets placed, I send each one a survey to check on his lifestyle, and I do the same with the host families,” said Reitmeyer. “I then do a home visit to see the set up. It helps me place the players in a good situation.”
Most -- if not all -- minor-league teams, both independent and affiliated, have some sort of host family program. Since day one, the T-Bones have worked to develop a great program, which helps eliminate one stress for the players.
“When I first arrived at one of my minor league stops, I was handed a sheet of paper with names, numbers and addresses,” one former T-Bones pitcher said. “When I asked what it was, I was told that it was the list of host families, and that I needed to call and find one. It was strange to call these people I didn’t know, especially when some of them on the list weren’t even host families anymore. When I got to Kansas City, all of the arrangements for a host family were already made, and everything went smoothly.
“Joining the T-Bones midway through the season, that made the transition to a new city and team a lot easier.”
Although it might sound complicated or involved, being a “host family” can be a wonderful experience not only for the players, but for the families, as well.
“It can be awkward at first when you don’t know the player, but once they’re in and you get to know them, you love them to pieces,” said Reitmeyer, who’s hosted a few players, but the main one for the past two seasons has been outfielder Robby Kuzdale. “They become a part of the family. You get to know them on a different level. When they’re on the field, you feel as if they’re your kid.
“Every time Robby hits a homerun, I give him a pan of brownies to share with the team. They’re known throughout the clubhouse as the “homerun brownies.” Now, not only does the team know they’re getting brownies when he hits a homerun, the people around us in the stands know about the brownies, so they’ll start talking about how the team gets brownies because of Robby’s homerun. It’s a great family-type experience.”
A great example of that “family-type experience” is with Chad Robinson, a tall, lanky T-Bones relief pitcher who sported a long beard while he was in Kansas City in 2013. Robinson was one of the players the Reitmeyers hosted during their first season. Although he spent only part of ‘13 with the T-Bones, as Robinson and his mom drove last spring from Las Vegas to his home with the Rockland Boulders in the Can-Am League, they stopped to have breakfast with the Reitmeyers.
“We got to visit for an hour or so, which was so much fun,” said Cheryl Reitmeyer. “That’s the type of relationship you build with the players. And then, I recently got a text from Chad asking if we could be a reference for him as he pursues a career in law enforcement in Las Vegas. With Robin being a former state trooper, we were excited to hear that Chad’s decided to go into that field. Except for the beard, I love Chad with all my heart, just like Robby, who’s now a part of our family.”
Ideally, host families are within 20 minutes of CommunityAmerica Ballpark. That can translate to families in Parkville, Mo. and Lansing, Kan., not to mention Kansas City, Olathe, Lenexa, Shawnee and Overland Park.
Host families with the T-Bones each get two season tickets, along with numerous perks throughout the season.
“The players are so great and so appreciative. I’ve learned more about the game that I thought was possible,” Reitmeyer said. “Seeing their lifestyle and how they train is eye-opening because, when they’re serious about baseball as a career, they’re disciplined. We’ve been fortunate to have super guys.
“But being a host family is so much fun. Once they’re in, families generally don’t leave the program unless they have life changes. It’s definitely addictive.”
For more information about becoming a host family, please contact Kacy Muller with the T-Bones at 913-328-5640.