Softball promoters: City hits home run

By Janet Bresenham

o Custom Classic organizers declare hotels, restaurants benefit from three-day tournament.

By Janet Bresenham
Ballplayers weren’t the only ones hitting home runs when 130 teams gathered in Clovis for the 20th anniversary of the Custom Classic Men’s and Women’s Softball Tournament.
The three-day event began Friday night and continued through Sunday afternoon with 255 games played in five divisions. It brought players and their families from around New Mexico and Texas to stay in local motels, eat at area restaurants and spend money in town when they’re not on the field.
“There were no motel rooms here Friday night,” said Guy Leeder, president of the Clovis Softball Association for more than 20 years.
“There were about 69 teams from out of town, and we don’t even count teams from Bovina and Muleshoe as out of town because they can go home at night.”
Jennifer Babcock, who works for the Hampton Inn in Clovis, spoke enthusiastically Sunday evening about what the Custom Classic Softball Tournament means for area businesses.
“They sold us out every night,” Babcock said. “They brought in a lot of business. I think it was a really good outcome.”
Leeder, who was watching a championship game Sunday afternoon at his namesake Guy Leeder Softball Complex in Clovis, said the overall financial impact on the Clovis community can be substantial.
“You can figure about $2,800 per team per weekend that goes into the local economy during the tournament,” Leeder said. “It mounts up. These guys play ball all day and they all eat good meals every day. They stay in our motels and buy gas before they go home. And many of them bring their kids, too.”
In addition, 65 of the games were played in Portales, which means revenue can be spread around there, as well.
“Clovis is the center of it,” Leeder said. “But we use Portales fields to play the losers’ bracket. Every year, we have more and more teams. We started with 13 teams in 1983.”
Leeder said tournament organizers put out the word well in advance about when the event will take place, so that area businesses can be ready for the crowds.
“This is the best tournament around,” said Diana Silva, whose husband Art coaches “Silva’s Softball,” the Albuquerque team that won this year’s championship 28-8 in the competitive division.
“We’ve been coming here to Clovis since 1999,” she said. “We’ve had great experiences with everyone we’ve ever dealt with here. They do so good for the community around here. They’re the envy of a lot of people.”
Silva’s Softball utility player Robby Flores said the players always look forward to coming to Clovis.
“Clovis really caters to the softball teams coming here,” Flores said. “Coming from Albuquerque, it’s totally different there. A lot of this has to do with Guy Leeder, the teams and the city.”
Tully Latham, who plays for Jimmy Finchers/Zachs 54, the Amarillo team that placed second to Albuquerque in the competitive division, said the people in the Clovis community provide a friendly welcome.
“The biggest reason we come is Guy Leeder because he always puts on a good tournament,” Latham said. “We have to plan pretty early to get into the motels.”
Teams coming to Clovis for the Custom Classic receive welcome packets that include a dining and lodging guide and other information from the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce.