Changes in store for Mex-Am tourney

Mark Schnabel
The championship bracket of the 72nd Newton Mexican-American Men's Fast-Pitch Softball Tournament.

There will be a couple of changes for the 72nd Newton Mexican-American Fast-Pitch Softball Tournament, which is scheduled to begin Friday at Athletic Park.

First will be longtime player Todd Zenner will take over as tournament director. Second will be the inclusion of three Native American teams.

The tournament will have a 14-team field this year. Festivities begin Friday at Kelsch Field, Athletic Park, with opening ceremonies, the old-timer’s game and the first tournament game.

Play continues Saturday at Kelsch Field, Washington Road Field and some consolation games at Centennial Park. Play concludes Sunday at Kelsch and Washington Road with the finals slated for 3:30 p.m. at Kelsch Field.

“I’ve played for a total of, I believe, 25 years,” Zenner said. “I started off, they asked me to be on the committee. They asked me to coach the team the Mexican-American Athletic Club sponsored. From there, Manual Jaso, who was the tournament director – he was my first fast-pitch coach. We go way back. I played for him for years. We were pretty close. He wanted to retire. I didn’t want it to fall into the wrong hands, so I agreed to take it over and carry on the tradition.”

Zenner’s grandfather, Saymon Alvarez, was a former tournament worker.

“At the field at Our Lady of Guadalupe, he helped work the gate,” Zenner said. “He helped take care of the field. He used to paint the green fence out there. He used to take care of the stands. He always helped to get things ready. He was always a crucial part, helping the tournament director get ready for the tournament.”

Zenner takes over the tournament at an interesting time. While the state travel advisory over the COVID-19 outbreak wasn’t updated until after the print deadline of this article, Zenner expects no changes to the tourney field.

“Everything’s changing,” Zenner said. “With the masks and the social distancing, we’re going to have to make sure that everybody is spread out. If they are not wearing masks, they have to abide by the social distancing rules. We don’t have any teams coming from Texas. We have a team called Wichita-Houston, but the guy who runs is used to be from Houston and moved to Wichita, but he has Houston connections. It seems pretty stable at 14. It’s just Tuesday. I don’t foresee any changes. We’ll stay at three fields.”

Teams competing include The Newton Mexican-American Athletic Club, The Emporia Black Sox, A-1 Construction, the Kansas City Bandidos, Newton Taco Bell, the Kansas City Indios, Wichita-Houston, the Kansas City Lobos, the Hutchinson Bluejays and the Kansas City Eagles.

The Kansas City Bravos downed the Kansas City Eagles 2-1 in last year’s finals.

The Native American teams coming in this year are the Oklahoma Syko, the Big Eagle Express and the Goodfellas.

“What I’ve been told from the people who have been helping my down there is they are the three of the top six teams down there,” Zenner said.

Another team to watch is A-1 Construction. The team has seven members of the U.S. National 17U Team — Cody Gibbons, Tyler Bouley, Will Pounce, Caden Luna, Ely Riveras, Parker Hopkins and Blake Kerr. Zenner said Pounce and Luna both have family members who have played in the tournament for more than 50 years.

“They’ll be fun to watch,” Zenner said. “They are all under the age of 23.”

Play from last year's Newton Mexican-American Men's Fast-Pitch Softball Tournament. This year's tourney begins with opening ceremonies Friday.