By Kevin Wilson
For almost as long as churches have been a staple of Portales, so too has church softball.
The summer league is just as much a part of Portales summers as rodeo and dust storms and it has grown from a 12-team league to a 24-team league in only about five years.
“It grows every year,” said Larry Urioste, the director of the league, which plays on Monday and Tuesday nights at Industrial Park from this week until mid-August.
Urioste, who has been on the league’s board for many years, takes over as director after Galen Isaacs ran the league in 2001 and 2002. Isaacs said “family commitments” this summer will leave him with less time than he would need to dedicate to running the league.
With more teams arrive more challenges to St. Helen’s No. 1, which has won the last six church league titles. Urioste, who coaches the defending champs, realizes that this could be the year that a team mounts a serious challenge to his squad in August.
“We’ve got more competition this year,” Urioste said, “with a lot of good teams.”
With an expanded league comes an expanded playoff format. Urioste said the regular season will continue as it always has, with games from 5 to 9 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday. However, there will be two different tournaments — Urioste said the top 12 teams will play in the “Gold” tournament, while the remaining 12 will play in the “Silver” tournament.
Two days in, Urioste said the league has been great, despite the obvious headaches the increase in teams causes.
“It’s harder to make the schedule,” he says with a laugh, “because some teams can only play on Monday and some teams can only play on Tuesday. But I’m sure we’ll figure it out.”