“There’re a lot of guys on this board that have made it up to the big leagues,” Marlene Hughes said.
The pictures hanging in Marlene Hughes’ hall display 74 Helena Brewers rookie ball players that stayed in her house since 1997, most away from home for the first time.
“They don’t know anything about Helena,” Hughes said. “They usually say Heleena.”
Marlene is the host coordinator for the Brewers Host Family program. The idea started in 1994 when she organized a booster club to help players adjust to their new surroundings.
“These players come to town and they’re worried because they don’t know where they’re going to live,” Hughes said.
The Hughes are one of 11 host families this season. Players pay the family $175 a month for rent and associated living costs. The families receive 38 general admission game tickets or a reserve ticket to a select number of home games.
“If you like baseball, it’s a great way to get involved,” Marlene said, “and a great way to see games at the park.”
This year, Hughes took in three ball players: Blake Fox, Lucas Erceg and Wes Wilson.
“It’s been nice kind of feeling like home,” Wilson said. “Also, giving us their car so we can get around.”
The Brewers called up Erceg to the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers on June 16 and that wasn’t a bad thing for his roommate Blake Fox.
“The bed is probably made for a 6-foot person and I’m 6-foot-4,” Fox said. “But once Lucas [Erceg] got called up, I took over his bed.”
Nineteen years in and Marlene still enjoys hosting players. She never fears allowing players to stay at her home when she is away, but she does fear the program’s death.
“I hate to quit,” Hughes said. “I’m afraid the players will have to go to a motel.”
Hopefully, Marlene and Brewers continue a long relationship.