Newton Mexican American Fast Pitch Tournament historian Ray Olais of Newton knows it is confusing — this is the 70th edition of the tournament, though the first tournament was played in 1946.
"The math doesn't add up," Olais said.
That is because, he said, the tournament has been suspended twice — the results of floods in Newton. Newton has not flooded like that in decades, thanks in no small part to the Sand Creek Watershed which was constructed decades ago. Like so many things in and around Newton, the tournament predates the watershed.
The first tournament was played on a Thursday, According to The Newton Kansan from 1946, a team from Newton won the one-day event.
"It was an all-day affair," Olais said. "There was food and entertainment."
Results and history is what Olais called "foggy" from the first few years of the tournament. But what is known for certain is the tournament was played, and that the tournament has grown in the decades.
It has grown because so many volunteers have taken pride in the event, and kept it going as other similar tournaments have come and gone.
"It is a real source of pride for the whole community and the Hispanic community," Olias said. "... If you won the Newton tournament, you won the World Series."
When the tournament began, games were played in Athletic Park, on the west side of the stadium. In 1960, work began on a softball diamond at the then-new Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 415 S. Ash St., The church had just moved from a location on West First Street, part of the now gone Ranchito. Beginning in approximately 1911, the Santa Fe Railroad provided housing to Mexican laborers and their families on west First in Newton. The area east of Sand Creek and south of First was known as the “Mexican Camp” or the Ranchito by those that lived there. Our Lady started there.
"When the tournament started, the Ranchito was across the street," Olais said.
In 1963, the tournament moved to Our Lady, where it would stay for more than two decades before moving back to Athletic Park. This weekend, the tournament will make use of Athletic Park, Washington Park and Centennial Park as it tries to crown a champion.
According to Gil Solis Jr., a tournament historian, most years the tournament was made up of teams from Newton, Wichita, Hutchinson, Emporia, Topeka and Kansas City. A trip to Ft. Smith, Ark., by Newton Holy Name helped take the tourney in a new direction. A team from Oklahoma City caught the eye of Tony Sandate, the Holy Name manager. Sandate told them of a Mexican tournament in Newton and welcomed them to participate.
Oklahoma City Casa Del Dulce won the tournament in 1978, lead by pitcher Steve Scott.
That kind of opened up the tournament. Teams from Texas and Colorado are this season's field.
"It has been a real source of pride that it has grown from what it was, a little tournament — there have always been the locals that came from Hutchinson, Wichita, Salina and Emporia. ... Eventually, it grew to where we were inviting teams from other states like Colorado, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri and they were being reciprocal," Olais said. "Because this was the first one that was sponsored the way it was, it became the granddaddy of them all."