Staff photo: Rick White Lock N Load shortstop Frank Martinez hustles out a double Saturday in the 24th annual Custom Classic. Lock N Load beat the Clovis Reds 13-8 in a Men’s E division elimination game at the Guy Leeder Softball Complex.
By Tony Gutierrez: CNJ staff writer
The sound of bats clinking and fans hollering mixed with “Red Dirt Road” on the loudspeaker as the smell of dust and nachos filled the air Saturday at the Guy Leeder Softball Complex for the 24th annual Custom Classic softball tournament.
Two teams, the Finishers and Linedrive, lost their first game and when they played each other, one team would be eliminated.
“We lost our first one last night,” said Abe Garcia of Clovis, who had four family members playing with him, including his son and nephew.
Garcia played for Linedrive, a team comprised of K. Barnett and Sons employees and their families, including three father-son pairs.
The Finishers, sponsored by Cordova Concrete, was made up of employees, friends and families.
“We’re here to have fun and try to win,” said Victor Lira, whose brother Edward also played on the team.
Linedrive won the game 8-6.
Jeff Greene, one of the tournament directors, said the Classic has grown considerably in the last 10 years and had to cut off registration at 115 on a first-come, first-serve basis because of the limited space at Guy Leeder, although teams were allowed on a waiting list to compete.
“You’ll get a few who’ll use this as a reunion, guys who played together at one time play once a year,” said Jimmy Gonzalez, another tournament director. Gonzalez said about 100 of the teams are repeats from previous years.
At 56, Frank Galvan Jr., of Bovina is the oldest member of his team, the Warthogs.
“I’ve known some of the players on and off since I’ve been playing softball,” Galvan said.
Galvan said he has been playing softball for nearly 30 years and has competed in every Custom Classic.
“I remember when 30 teams was a good number for the whole deal,” Galvan said of the Classic. “Now there’s over 100. Competition-wise, you can’t beat it.”
Galvan said the average age of the players on his team was the early 30s, including his son.
“Some of them I met playing with their dads,” Galvan said.
By Saturday evening, the Benchwarmers were 2-0. Unlike other teams with their record, the Benchwarmers are all younger than 18.
“Our first game yesterday, we played some 30-year-old dudes,” said 16-year-old Brandon Brooks. “We were joking it was past our bedtime.”
Though they said they feel somewhat intimidated playing against teams older than them, they said they appreciated the competitive level.
“The kids our age are not that much competition,” said 14-year-old Kody Howell.
The long haul
Hit and Run traveled seven hours from Tulsa, Okla., to compete in the tournament. This is the team’s fourth year to play in the classic.
“It was about seven hours, that’s cruising,” said Shane Busby, one of the team’s sponsors. “Should have been eight and a half, probably.”
The players carpooled in four vehicles.
“We want to play somebody different than the same teams,” said Charlie Minney of Tulsa.
Minney joked the alcohol percentage in beer is higher than it is in Oklahoma, which is 3.2.
“There’s another big one for Halloween, so we come for that, too,” Busby said.
As the game ended, Carl Patton from Chapman Construction’s Damage, removed his tutu and handed it to the team’s coach Kip Harper to put it back in the team bag.
“If you strike out, you have to wear it until you get on base,” Harper said.
Patton, however, said he wore the dress “just for fun; intimidation.”
The team was mainly made up of several coworkers and friends, including five employees from the BNSF Railway.
“I got picked up by another guy,” said Troy Lowe, one of the employees. “I played with a different team last year and they broke up, so I was wandering, looking for a team.”
Litney Apobaca and Mari Estcoto, cousins from Amarillo, drove together to Clovis to compete against each other in the classic.
“We both started playing with each other when we were 4,” Escoto said.
Apobaca’s team, the Grand Valley Plastering started 3-0 in the tournament, while Estacado’s team, the Blast, which is ranked in tournaments across the country, started 1-1 for the weekend.
Apobaca’s team won the game 5-4.
“We starting hitting the ball,” Apobaca said. “It’s strictly on the field, no hard feelings.”
Despite the rivalry, the cousins are close and are staying together in Clovis.
A statistical look at the 24th annual Custom Classic
5 — Divisions — three men’s and two women’s
7 — Fields used for the tournament — five at Guy Leeder and two at Spencer Field
13 — Scorekeepers used in the tournament
30 — Most runs scored by a team in a men’s game — Woodworkers Supply.
33 — Most runs scored by a team in a women’s game — Cannon Varsity
35 — Umpires used for the tournament
46 — Combined runs in the Knockouts’ 25-21 win over Deja Vu in a Men’s D game
80 — Awards that will be handed out in each divisions at the end of the tournament
115 — Teams in the tournament
467 — Miles Hit & Run traveled from Tulsa, Okla., to play in the tournament