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

Mush-needed cause

Mushball tournament helps fund cancer research

 

Eric Murray

Team Boneheads' Jackie Reavis of Clovis puts the ball in play against Team Bazinga on Saturday morning. Bazinga and Boneheads were two of a dozen teams signed up for the charity tournament.

PORTALES — For three years running, Portales has hosted a charity event at its Portales Softball Complex, in conjunction with the Relay for Life, to raise additional proceeds toward cancer research. The Portales Relay for Life Charity Mushball Tournament has raised thousands of dollars over the past few years, and has garnered a strong community response, in the process.

For event organizer Connie Cuevas-Florez, the idea was something that she dreamed up one day, and she couldn’t be prouder of the results. “I play softball in the Clovis Women’s League, and I have been part of the Relay for Life for years and years,” Cuevas-Florez said.

“One day I was just sitting there and I go, ‘Why don’t we do a tournament in Portales? Bring the softball family into it.’ I know that everybody’s been touched by cancer, one way or another. I kept thinking it and I decided to do it.”

Cuevas-Florez says that the first year raised about $5-6,000, with last year garnering $7-8,000. While uncertain about this year’s total, she says that each player in the tournament has donated $10 apiece, on top of online donations and proceeds from concession sales.

So what is mushball? It’s essentially softball, but with a larger, 16-inch ball, as opposed to 11 inches in fastpitch softball. The ball gets mushier the more you hit it, and thus, the ball does not typically travel very far. The ball is also soft enough that some choose to field the ball without a glove.

A dozen coed teams with 12-16 players each make up the tournament field. According to Cuevas-Florez, about half of the teams have been here every year, while others are a mix of newcomers or former teams reforming.

Activities began at 8:45 Saturday morning, and included a benediction, the National Anthem, the first pitch, plus, a home run derby in the afternoon.

This year’s honorary cancer survivor is Tanya Baca, who happened to throw out the first pitch. “That was very exciting, because she was very nervous — but she did good,” Cuevas-Florez explained.

Portales Mayor Ron Jackson, who’s involved with the Portales Softball Association, helped run the concession stands at the event. The PSA is in charge of the concessions and donates a portion of the profits to the charity event.

For Jackson, the event is a great opportunity to bring people together.

“Just getting people out and about. Just giving somebody something to do, because we always hear that there’s nothing to do in Portales,” Jackson said.

“Well, there’s lots to do, if you keep your eyes and ears open, and get involved in things. Twelve teams with 12 or so players each, that’s 100-plus families. It’s a good facility for them to come out during the day, grab some snacks, grab something to drink and watch a little mushball.”

And while the event is plenty fun, everyone knows the seriousness of the cause, including Cuevas-Florez. The morning benediction included a prayer for Councilor Diane Parker’s brother, Louis Castinado, who’s currently battling prostate cancer.

Cuevas-Florez, who coaches a team in the tournament, even changed her team name at the last minute to “Team Castinado” to honor Louis.

As for Cuevas-Florez herself, cancer has touched her, personally.

“It’s just geared to my heart, because my stepfather was diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t have cancer, but I had tumors and I was so blessed that they weren’t (cancerous),” Cuevas-Florez explained. “I just think that it’s so important to keep the community together, especially when it’s a fundraiser like this, for the American Cancer Society.

“I know there’s technology out there and they help a lot of families. There’s a cure out there, but with more research, maybe someday, they’ll eliminate this disease.”

 

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