Custom Classic expects 120-team field

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

About 120 teams, more than half from out of town, are expected to participate in this weekend’s Plateau Wireless Custom Classic slow-pitch softball tournament.

Most of the games are scheduled for Guy Leeder Complex, tournament organizer Roger Jackson said, while a few games will be played at Spencer Field and some in Portales.

“This is by far the biggest event of the year (for the Clovis Softball Association),” he said. “It’s probably one of the bigger events for the city of Clovis.”

The tournament, which begins Friday night and ends with championship games in five divisions on Sunday afternoon, is advertised by the Clovis Softball Association as the largest United States Slow-pitch Softball Association (USSSA) qualifier in the state. The top four teams in each division have the possibility of going on to a “national invitational” if they can raise the money, or a state tournament.

Jackson said he anticipates 15-16 teams in the men’s competitive division (Class C and above), 40-42 teams in men’s Class D, around 30 teams in men’s Class E, 20 teams in women’s rec and 13-14 team’s in women’s competitive. He estimated 65-70 of the teams will be from outside Clovis.

Guy Leeder, for whom the softball complex is named, helped get the event started in 1984 and has coached his Guy’s Electric team in it every year.

“It’s a very competitive tournament,” said Leeder, who has had three teams win championships over the years in the event. “It’s actually harder to win than some of the NITs.”

He said as much as anything, though, it’s a social event.

“It’s kind of like a fair,” he said. “You get to see people you don’t otherwise get to see.”

Kenneth Leinberger, who sponsors men’s and women’s teams in the tournament, agreed and added that competing against out-of-town teams creates a certain excitement.

“Everybody looks forward to it,” he said. “You get to see so many other teams. It’s really nice to have the out-of-town teams come in.”

Leinberger’s Flatbeds of New Mexico men’s squad competes in Class D, while the Lady Flatbeds will be in the women’s rec division.

He said the women’s team just has a good time playing, while the men hope to make a run at a championship.

“We’ve got a good team this year,” Leinberger said. “I think we’ve got a good chance.”

Leeder, who isn’t directly involved in running the event any more but still helps where he can behind the scenes, said with all the non-city teams the tournament also brings in substantial revenue to the community.

“My team travels a lot,” he said. “When we leave town, it probably costs each one of us about $300 for the trip.”