From left, Daniel Lahare, Brennan Castello and Zach Clark, all members of the Bill Hood baseball team out of Mandeville, La., take a photo while hiking
From left, Daniel Lahare, Brennan Castello and Zach Clark, all members of the Bill Hood baseball team out of Mandeville, La., take a photo while hiking earlier this week in Durango, Colo. (Courtesy of Daniel Lahare)

FARMINGTON — Tony and Teresa Martinez still remember the 1994 Connie Mack World Series, when Puerto Rico's Carolina Raiders team remained undefeated and won the series.

After the championship game, the athletes gathered at a host family's house for a party filled with dancing and music.

"They love to play their music, and they love to dance," said Teresa Martinez, whose family attended the party with the teenagers they hosted that year.

For 29 years, the Martinez family has hosted athletes from Puerto Rico who come to Farmington to compete in the Connie Mack World Series. This year, they hosted three players from the Carolina Vaqueros, the team from Puerto Rico eliminated from the tournament on Wednesday.

From left, Samantha Chang, Trent Clark, Matt Mikusek, Seth Elledge, Alec Chang and Brycen Campbell hang out by Baker’s Bridge near Durango, Colo.,
From left, Samantha Chang, Trent Clark, Matt Mikusek, Seth Elledge, Alec Chang and Brycen Campbell hang out by Baker's Bridge near Durango, Colo., earlier this week. The Changs and Campbells hosted several members of D-BAT Gallegos, a Dallas-based baseball team that was in town for the Connie Mack World Series. Clark, Mikusek and Elledge play for the team. (Courtesy of Jesse Hankins)

"It's been a blast," Tony Martinez said. "It's been a blessing to watch these kids' events."

He said the family generally takes the players to Durango, Colo., and to Navajo Lake, as well as bowling and swimming.

"They like everything," he said. "It doesn't matter what it is."

Each year, host families are critical to the success of the Connie Mack World Series, helping keep the tournament's costs low. They provide a place for players to sleep and drive the teenagers to practices and games.

But for many families, the experience means as much for them as it does for the players.

Ronna Carpenter's family hosted D-BAT Leach's Pat Day, Brady Harlan and Nash Walters this year. The family took the teenagers, who all play for the team based out of Dallas, to Navajo Lake, where Walters caught a 13-inch, small-mouth bass.

This was Carpenter's first year hosting players, and she said she enjoyed it so much that she plans to host players again next year.

"I strongly suggest everybody take a look at hosting the boys," she said. "They've become my boys for this week."

Cooking is a major part of hosting the athletes. Maria and Francisco Colón, who are both from Puerto Rico and now live in Farmington, housed three Puerto Rican players this year. Maria Colón said she was proud to serve the teenagers food from their homeland, adding that her mother actually wrote a Puerto Rican cookbook. She described the food as being spicy but not hot. She said it is similar to Spain's cuisine, rather than Mexican food.

From left, D-BAT Gallegos’ Seth Elledge holds Jrason Hankins and D-BAT Gallego’s Braden Williams holds Javen Hankins at Ricketts Park in
From left, D-BAT Gallegos' Seth Elledge holds Jrason Hankins and D-BAT Gallego's Braden Williams holds Javen Hankins at Ricketts Park in Farmington. The teenagers, both part of the Dallas-based team, are playing in the Connie Mack World Series and are staying with host families in Farmington. (Courtesy of Jesse Hankins)

"They do enjoy eating their native food," she said.

The Connie Mack World Series is one of the highlights of the summer for the couple.

"I love to hear the noise of our own people in the house," Maria Colón said.

For many of the host families, the athletes they host during the week-long tournament become part of their families.

Stacy Chang, who has hosted players for six years, housed two D-BAT Gallegos players this year from Dallas.

She jokes that each year she tells her children that family will go instead on a vacation.

But, she said, her children reply, "That is our vacation, Mom. That's the best time of the year."

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.