The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

It's Custom time in Clovis

 

File photo

Pete Chavez of Clovis MHF makes a throw to first during a Custom Classic game last season. The annual double-elimination softball tournament starts today at Guy Leeder Softball Complex.

CLOVIS — What started small has turned into a colossus.

The 35th annual Plateau Custom Classic softball tournament begins tonight with 96 teams registered, a huge turnout even though it’s actually down from last year’s 109. But still flirting around the 100 mark is way more than anyone expected when the tournament began in the early 1980s.

Roger Jackson remembers those days.

“We were doing it to kind of have a fundraiser for the team,” Jackson recalled. “My memory doesn’t go too far back, but I think we started with 13 teams. ... We started having it, we gave out nice awards, and that was pretty much how it got its kick-off start.”

The 96-team field will of course include a slew from Clovis, but the tournament has become a regional event. There will be teams visiting from Colorado Springs, El Paso, Midland-Odessa, Lubbock, Amarillo, Childress, Hobbs and elsewhere outside the friendly confines of Curry County.

The tournament is held at the Guy Leeder Softball Complex on 14th Street just shy of Norris. Tournament play begins tonight at 7 p.m. and runs until whatever time they finish on Sunday, which Jackson hopes will be around 1:30 p.m.

Five divisions comprise the tournament — the Men’s Competitive Division (7 teams); the Men’s D (29); Men’s E (30); Women’s Competitive (14); and Women’s E (16).

Three tournament division championship games will be played on Saturday: the Women’s Competitive (8:45 p.m.); the Women’s E (10:30 p.m.) and the Men’s Competitive (10:30 p.m.). What Jackson calls ‘if’ games may follow if neither team has two losses after the first game.

Sunday, the Men’s D and E both wrap up with 12:35 p.m. games, each possibly followed by ‘if’ games.

This year’s tournament will be played a week before the Draggin’ Main Festival, unlike in recent years when the two events were held in the same weekend.

“I don’t know that it’s better or worse for the tournament,” Jackson said. “I think it’s better for our city that we have two different weekends that we can bring in tourists for our town. (In previous years) the motels were just packed on the same weekends and we feel like both weekends will bring in more tax dollars. They can spend more money in our town. If we can get ’em on different weekends, lots of our businesses are going to flourish from them. I think it’s good for (the music festival) and it’s good for us. I think (the festival participants) are going to put on a good show, and this is actually the first time I’ll be able to go to it.”

In a prior year, the softball tournament ballooned to over 130 participants, so the numbers have decreased. “We don’t know what it’s attributed to,” Jackson said. “Maybe just attrition. Sometimes teams just don’t come.”

That’s not to say, however, the tournament won’t be back to well over 100 teams in the near future. Even now, it remains what Jackson thinks is the third-largest adult softball tournament within a 300-mile radius. A tournament, though, that no longer includes Jackson as a player.

“I still play maybe in my heart a little bit,” said Jackson, 60. “but I had fun when I did play. You get old and fat and everything else.”

However, other players on the plus-side of 50 haven’t retired. Jackson said there is one regular team with players all over 50. And there’s one player, Frank Galvan, who’s still competing in it — and playing well — at the tender age of 67.

“It’s fun, fun, fun to watch him play,” Jackson said, “because he enjoys the game so much.”

 

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