Custom Classic A to Z

Kevin Wilson

The Custom Classic entered its 28th year in Clovis this weekend, drawing players, teams and themes from A to Z.

A stands for “Amistad Pavilion, with picnic tables and shade. Tournament director Roger Jackson said it translates to “Friends Pavillion,” and the group that donated the supplies and labor to build it asked for that name.

Brackets, posted throughout the complex, list all 118 teams in five divisions of double-elimination play. They’re updated by staff and updated online throughout the tournament.

Cadillac is something you’d like to own, but at the Custom it’s something you want to hear. That’s the word people tell you when you’re rounding third and there’s no throw coming. Essentially, you can go slow, like a Cadillac cruising down the street.

Dugouts are player-only. Officials try to enforce the rule as much as possible. Families are welcome, umpires and officials say, but there’s plenty of room in the stands and the complex for spouses and kids.

Equalizers help keep the games close in the women’s divisions — somewhat. In the women’s competitive division, Team Texas Blast started every game down 5-0. In women’s recreational, 11 teams were given five runs to start the contest.

Flags of three varieties flap in the New Mexico wind. The 48 flags vary between the U.S. flag, the New Mexico flag and a red, white and blue “Welcome” flag.

Gatorade, a popular choice with the heat. The sports drink sells for $1.50. The most popular flavor is fruit punch, which is simply called, “Red.”

Hotels, which get filled up quickly this weekend. There are 11 sponsor hotels, which fill a lot of the need of about 65 traveling teams. Most teams, Jackson said, have about 25 people once you count players, friends and family.

Innings, as many as 1,617, will be played over the weekend. That number assumes a full 231 games, with seven innings each. That’s 218 games to knock out every non-champion, plus five for the second championship game — the “if” game. That number will never be realized, however, due to time limits and run-ruled contests.

Jimmy Fluckey … or Jackson, Roger. Those are two of the people who started the tournament in 1983 with 13 teams. Harold Sparks was the third.

K, short for strikeout. It’s the biggest embarrassment of a softball tournament, with the possible exception of getting thrown out at first from the outfield. Tradition goes that a swinging strike means you’re buying the next case of adult beverages.

Leeder, the man the softball complex was named for. Guy Leeder, who died in 2007, had more than 2,500 wins coaching slow-pitch softball and started the complex from one field in 1971. The complex was named for him 18 years later.

Memorials are abundant throughout the complex, because softball players have to go sometime. The top memorial, though, is a fountain constructed to remember Leeder. When Leeder died, Jackson said a tribute would be a fountain where team photos could be taken. Two years later, it became a reality.

No gets tossed out a lot. No alcohol, no glass bottles, no profanity, no littering.

Outlawz reads the jersey hanging in the official’s office. It’s in memory of Douglas Reid, 1970-2005. Jackson also remembered J.J. Gutierrez, who died of cancer, and Chano Lucio, who died this year of Lou Gehrig’s.

Protests, an inevitability. Teams can protest for roster checks or for rule interpretations. Jackson refers to many as, “procrastination protests,” where the protest isn’t filed until the team’s getting blown out.

Q-Bo, a team from Muleshoe. The name means, “What’s up,” and the team is mostly made up of a trio of brothers — Sanchez, Martinez and Allen.

Roasted corn, one of the staples of softball tournaments at the complex. The Los Carlos truck offers corn for $3, with numerous flavorings. The most popular is lemon pepper.

Shade, in any June tournament, is a key. Jackson said he thinks there’s more shade at Guy Leeder than any complex in the state, with a mix of trees, pavilions and covered stands.

Trophies, 36 in all. There are trophies for the first four finishers in each division, a trophy for Plateau Wireless as the main sponsor and individual player trophies in each division — an offensive player, defensive player and MVP in each.

Umpires sport red polos and USSSA hats. There are 37 working the tournament, and they’re evaluated by directors throughout. The best ones get selected to work championship games.

Veterans, because without them, there’s no way a tournament goes 28 years. Arthur Ybarra, coaching Big Dog’s of Amarillo, has been coming to the Custom as long as he can remember. He said the key is staying focused, which is easier when you’re the road team.

“You spent on gas to get there, you’re probably getting a hotel room, you’re going out to eat or you bought food to bring along,” Ybarra said. “You don’t want to spend that money and then go 0-2. But it’s happened before.”

Warmup, a necessity. Pitchers toss warmups, and fielders toss to each other wherever they can find open space. Some areas are designated warmup-free zones, and the prime area is the field you’re playing on next. The hope is the previous game finishes quickly.

XXXXL, the largest size of T-shirt available at the stand manned by Shelby Jackson.

“They sold out; so did the 3X’s and the 2X’s,” said Jackson, Roger’s daughter. “We didn’t order a ton of them, but they sold out quick.

Prices ranged from $12 for a shirt to $25 for a hooded sweatshirt, with upcharges for larger sizes ($2 for 2X, $3 for 3X, $4 for 4X).

Yellow, Optic. The required color of the softball for the tournament. The ball, Jackson said, is easier to see no matter the time of day.

Z, an alternative finish for your team name. There are six in all — the Swingerz, the Outlawz, the Kinfolkz, the Drug Dawz, the Dirty Boyz and the Dirty Girlz. There was one Z matchup, with the Dirty Boyz beating the Outlawz 22-11 in the Men’s Class E first round.