Playing Wiffle Ball with her father as a young child is a memory Andee Allen will never forget.
Steve Allen would repeatedly pitch the ball to his daughter in the front yard of their home, while Andee Allen often showed the potential of one day becoming a softball star.
No. 11 Missouri (48-9)
vs. No. 2 UCLA (44-9)
WHEN: Game 1, Saturday at 8:30 p.m.
Game 2, Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Game 3 (if needed), Sunday at 4:30 p.m.
WHERE: Los Angeles
However, even if she didn’t get the best of her father's pitch, she would still count it as a hit — drawing no objections from her father.
“I’d still run around and touch all of the bases, and act like it was a hit,” Andee Allen said. “But I didn’t necessarily touch all of the bases at the same time. He thought it was funny.”
Andee Allen, who has been an important player the past four years on the Missouri softball team, is looking forward to what could be her final week as a Tiger. Missouri plays No. 2 ranked UCLA on Saturday in an NCAA Super Regional best-of-three series. The winner advances to the College World Series of Softball from May 28 to June 3 in Oklahoma City.
As she got older, both of her parents were influential in her development as a softball player. Andee Allen described her father as more of a “supporter”, while her mother, Debbie Allen, was the “encourager” to do things. Neither pushed or forced anything upon her. Her parents would play catch with her, but as she got stronger and threw harder, they were tired of catching her hard throws.
“Both of my parents were great. Hitting ground balls and playing catch,” Andee Allen said. “But after a while, they’d make me throw the ball into the fence.”
Throughout her athletic career, Andee Allen’s parents were mainstays at most of her events. No matter what, they would be there.
However, in December of 2007, all of that changed. After battling Leukemia and a number of other complications, Steve Allen died.
Debbie and Andee Allen were struck with grief. But they at least had each other.
“I was fortunate enough to have my mom there for me,” Andee Allen said. “We kinda leaned on each other.”
Even before succumbing to Leukemia, Steve Allen continued to go to his daughter’s games when the conditions weren't exactly perfect for his health. Sometimes when there is inclement weather, the Tigers play indoors at Devine Pavilion, where conditions are far from sterile. But even that didn't stop him from attending his daughter's games. Although, it might have caused him to get a staph infection, Andee Allen said.
“He was too proud to wear a mask,” Andee Allen said. “And the Pavilion is basically a germ city.”
Luckily, after her father's death, Andee Allen had the sport she loved to turn to.
“The first month of practice was tough,” Andee Allen said. “If I didn’t have softball and school, it would’ve been a longer process for me. It still hits me though. Softball was definitely a big factor in handling things.”
The hardest part for Andee Allen is after away games, a time when she would usually call her father to talk about the game.
“After I play a game away, it’s hard not to call him,” Andee Allen said. “That’s when things really hit, when I need help with something."
To show respect for Steve Allen, Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine decided to have Steve Allen’s initials placed on the sleeve of his team's uniforms before last season.
"It was in honor of him, in honor of his life. We wanted to honor him with our season," Earleywine said. "It was kind of a reminder to us there are more important things than softball."
Despite her small 5-foot-3 stature, Andee Allen is regarded as one of the hardest workers on the Missouri team. Steve and Debbie Allen instilled a work ethic in their daughter that is matched by few.
“She’s tiny, but she’s mighty,” teammate Julie Silver said. “She has perfect mechanics. She really utilizes what she has.”
Last season, Andee Allen was named first team all Big 12 Conference. She says that isn’t the most coveted award she has been given. After hitting .379 last season, her teammates voted her team MVP.
“The team MVP meant the most to me,” Andee Allen said. “It’s the people I see every day. The people that look at me and what I do, and not just my stats.”
Earleywine said it says a lot that her teammates named her MVP. Considering players such as Amanda Renth, who hit 20 home runs, and Stacy Delaney, who had 20 wins pitching, had breakout years as well.
"They have a tremendous amount of respect for her," Earleywine said of Andee Allen. "She's truly a professional at what she does. She doesn't do it with her mouth, but she does it with her actions. She's very humble."
Her teammates know the type of hard work Andee Allen puts in, despite not always having things go her way.
“(Andee) perseveres. She’s gone through a lot,” Silver said. “She keeps her mind though. She’s the best player on the team.”
Andee Allen didn’t want to dedicate this season or last to her father, not because she didn’t want to, but because that is not the way her father would have wanted it.
“I would’ve put too much pressure on myself,” Andee Allen said. “He just wanted me to go out there and love it. He’s always on my mind. I know that he would’ve been happy that I am thinking about him.”