McALESTER — Generally speaking, the Jr. Sunbelt Classic brings a new crop of baseball players to McAlester and Wilburton every summer. The tournament is meant for high school juniors — hence the name — but a team might take a sophomore or two to fill up its roster, then bring that kid back for his junior year.
While two-year players show up fairly frequently, three-year players are much more rare. Justus Sheffield, for example, is the only three-year Sunbelt player in Tennessee history.
“It’s an honor to get invited year after year,” Sheffield said Wednesday.
“You not only want to do good on a personal level, but you also want to play for the team that’s across your chest. ... You want to go out there, give it all you can for your state.”
Growing up in Tullahoma, Tenn. — a town not all that different in size or population from McAlester — Sheffield said he’s been playing baseball “pretty much since I was born.” He said his father and pitching coach, Travis Sheffield, encouraged him to learn how to pitch and bat left-handed, and Sheffield has trained that way ever since.
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