Like many in and around McAlester, the Allford children never look forward to the end of the Junior Sunbelt Classic.
When Lauren Allford was a little girl, she held onto the players her family hosted, not wanting them to leave McAlester and return home.
Wilson Allford, 11, thought Sunday was the last day of the Sunbelt tournament and got upset until being told there was still a few days left.
"It's the best week ever," Wilson Allford said of the tournament.
Yvonne Allford said she, her husband, Clint, a 1989 McAlester grad and former Buffaloes baseball player — and the family started hosting Sunbelt players in the late 1990s.
The Spanish teacher at McAlester High School wanted to host as something fun for her daughter to do in the community.
However, she later coached pom and the dance team so the family took a hiatus from hosting for the tournament. She said she first hosted players from Team Arizona before moving onto the present day as a host for Team Missouri.
Yvonne Allford said her family looks at Sunbelt as the start of the summer — but their excitement and anticipation for the tournament starts in March every year. The family will email the players they're hosting sometime in March or April to communicate with them and exchange information about one another. This helps them get ready for the players.
"Especially when you have people come to your house, you want to be able to make sure they feel welcomed," Yvonne Allford said. "You just don't want them to kind of just pop in there."
This year, they hosted a pair of left-handed pitchers in Ethan Osborne and Kaydon Patrick.
“They’ve been very nice and welcoming — definitely welcomed me into their home, almost accepting me as one of their own,” said Patrick, who appreciated the family's hospitality.
“I just like how they’ve treated me very well,” Osborne said.
Yvonne Allford said a typical day for the family during Sunbelt is getting up early and making sure the players are fed in between games, deferring to their preferences. Mexican food was on the agenda after Monday’s 11-3 win against Team Canada.
“These two are very easy,” Yvonne Allford said. “They’re not very picky at all, whatever they want, and actually they don’t really eat a whole lot. Thank goodness.”
She said the type of players she has also dictates her schedule. Yvonne Allford hadn’t found herself doing a lot of laundry with this year's players being pitchers. This contrasts from when she did a lot of laundry when she once hosted a catcher.
Sometimes the players rest or take time to themselves. They also might swim at the Allford residence, or play video games with Wilson Allford.
Osborne and Patrick taught the Allfords' son some pointers about pitching, such as weight shifting and using the lower half. He is involved with an intact baseball team at the McAlester Boys and Girls Club, Yvonne Allford said.
Getting to live under the Allford roof for a week also brought the two southpaws for Missouri close together.
"I think at first it was a little awkward," Patrick said. "Now that we've gotten to know each other, we just hang out like friends."
The two players said they were nervous upon meeting their host family, but Osborne said the Allfords' welcoming demeanor calmed his nerves.
Yvonne Allford said things can be empty when the players aren't there after the tournament, but said she has always kept in contact with the players she's hosted during the years.
"This week, all my boys would say, 'Oh this is week is Sunbelt, and it's coming up, wish we were there,'" she said.
Contact Corey Stolzenbach at CStolzenbach@mcalesternews.com