By Dave Wagner
Youth softball teams from eastern New Mexico and the Amarillo area will gather this weekend for the ninth annual Lil Custom tournament at Guy Leeder Complex.
Tournament director Roger Jackson expects around 46 boys and girls teams to participate in 10 divisions, ranging from 8-and-under to 16-and-under.
Play will begin around 8 a.m. Saturday, carrying into the evening, and finish up around mid-afternoon on Sunday. Most divisions have four or five teams and will be in a round-robin format, but a couple have six teams and will play in a tournament format.
Jackson said about 40 teams participated last year.
“It’s actually grown over the years,” he said. “We’ve lost some of the teams from Hobbs and Alamogordo, but the numbers have actually grown.”
Blakey Ross, who will coach two teams in the event, said the struggling economy is part of the reason some of the teams from longer distances don’t make the trip. He also said they can have a tough time finding good motel rates.
In addition, cities like Alamogordo and Hobbs have gone more to fast-pitch in the last couple of years.
Still, he said, the teams enjoy the opportunity to play at Guy Leeder.
“Overall, it’s a great experience for the kids,” said Ross, who also had two teams in last year’s event. “The kids just have fun. They’ve watched their parents play out there, and now they get the chance.”
Ross has a daughter on his 14-and-under girls team, the Hurricanes, and two sons on his 8-and-under squad, the Little G’s.
He said the tournaments are competitive and at the same time fun.
“It’s a little bit of both,” he said. “The (Hurricanes) are at an age where they’re very competitive, and then for the boys it’s just fun to watch them play.”