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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Tradition Mexican - American tournament cranks up this weekend

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    The Mexican American men's fast pitch softball tournament in Newton is one of the oldest, and one of the few, remaining tournaments of its kind in the nation.
    The 65th annual tournament gets started Friday and runs through Sunday, with lots of softball being played, a lot of food and special events to celebrate the area's Mexican-American heritage.
    "It is still fast-pitch. I believe we are the only one left," Organizer Manuel Jaso said, noting that the tournament played in San Antonio is no longer being played.
    Jaso said the tournament will have its usual 16 teams playing in a double-elimination format.
    Opening ceremonies are set for 6:30 p.m. Friday at Athletic Park. During these ceremonies hall of fame members will be inducted, sponsors will be thanked and the games will get set to begin. An old-timers game is set for 7:15 and the first game is scheduled for 8:30.
    Games start at 9 a.m. Saturday and go through the day with games played at Athletic Park and Centennial Park.
    This year they will be charging $1 admission on Saturday and Sunday to pay tribute to earlier times and to attract more people.
    The game is a "men's" tournament, but there are a few women playing. One of the Newton teams - Los Ninos - will have Newton High School pitcher Heather Torres in the circle. Jaso said there may be one or two more girls playing.
    Four teams from Newton will be participating, two from Salina, one from Pueblo, Colo., and the rest from the Kansas City area.
    A Wichita Mexican restaurant will be selling Mexican food in the 4-H building at Athletic Park.
    The tournament is a celebration of the Mexican-American heritage, and teams may have no more than two players who are not of Mexican-American descent.
    Most of the players are teens, but many adults still play. Jaso has been involved with the tournament for 43 years, and this will be his first year not playing.
    There are some other events scheduled along with the games. Saturday there will be a special reunion mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 421 S. Ash. in Newton. A reunion dinner and dance is set for 8 p.m. to midnight at the church, with the band Grupo Picante playing. Tickets are $10 for that event.
    A special commemorative t-shirt will be available for sale at 2 p.m. Saturday at Athletic Park. Only 65 of these shirts have been made.

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