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How Mexican-Americans In Kansas Built A Community Around Softball

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

By ZACK LEWANDOWSKI / Kansas City Public Media

KANSAS – Mexican-American fast-pitch softball is a tradition that runs deep in Kansas and Missouri. For decades, families have passed on the tradition of playing baseball or softball, but the legacy has been poorly documented.

The game was originally introduced to Mexican immigrants in Kansas and Missouri in an attempt to shed them of their cultural identity. But, that didn’t happen. The sport did nothing but help define and unite a new community.

THE EXPERIENCE

It’s a hot Tuesday evening in Kansas City, Kan., and a game of local fast-pitch softball is about to begin between two local Mexican-American teams: The Locos and The Angels.

Around 20 people are gathered on the bleachers and everyone seems to know everyone. Locos and Angels players exchange handshakes and laughs, first names are replaced with nicknames and the dugouts are never quiet.

The Angels wear carnelian red jerseys. The team has been around since the 1960s, back when the game drew a larger crowd and younger players were more common. The Angels are made up of several amateur athletes. Some have years of college-level experience. A few have even made minor league baseball teams.

As the game begins, it’s clear that this is a quick sport. The infield is closer in than baseball, the base paths are shorter and infielders have much less time to get a runner out. The result is a fast-paced game where balls zip around the infield.

The Angels have seen their share of success in fast-pitch softball. In 2009, they won a national fast-pitch tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D. They were the first Hispanic team to win that tournament as part of the North American Fast-Pitch Association.

But for the Angels, one tournament in Newton, Kan. means a little more than the rest.

A HISTORIC TOURNAMENT

“It’s basically like our own little world series,” says Angels’ pitcher Louis Vaca, referring to the Newton Mexican-American Fast-Pitch Softball Tournament.

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