Zenner looks back on Hall of Fame career

By Blake Spurney

Harvey County Now Staff

NEWTON—Todd Zenner used to tag along with his grandfather, Saymon Alvarez, when he first started going to the Mexican-American Softball Tournament as a youngster.

I basically chased foul balls in the tournament until I was old enough to play,” he said.

The 51-year-old learned last month that his dedication to the game earned him a spot in the tournament’s Hall of Fame. Zenner mostly played first base since he is left-handed. His specialty was drag bunting, since he was one of the faster players. He said he wasn’t sure how he got nominated, but he last played in the tournament in 2018.

It does go fast,” he said. “It seems like yesterday we were 17-year-old kids running around playing ball. It definitely went quick.

Zenner said his team finished second multiple times in the Newton tournament and third several times. He said for the longest time he chased the prospect of winning the tournament, which is in its 74th year.

Since I’ve gotten older, it’s all about the friendships and camaraderie that come along with softball that became more important to me,” he said.

Zenner said getting inducted into the Hall of Fame was always something he dreamed about. He said his parents, Pat, who played in the tournament back in the day, and Barb, both told him they were proud of him.

Zenner now is in his third year as tournament director. He flew last weekend to San Antonio to watch the Glow Worms in their home tournament. He said the Glow Worms brought their entire families with them because they viewed coming to Newton as a big deal. Two other teams are coming from Midland and Austin, and other teams are traveling here from Colorado, South Dakota, Oklahoma and the Kansas City area. He said he enjoyed traveling around to various softball tournaments as a player, but now he’s trying to instill a convivial atmosphere for all the guests.

They’re all pretty excited to see what it’s all about,” he said about those making their first trip. “I think that’s a big deal to us, getting new teams to show what Newton has to offer and our fanbase.”

As always, pitching is the key to a successful tournament. Zenner said one thing people might not understand about fast-pitch softball was how much faster it was than baseball. That’s what appealed to him when he was in his prime. He recently was at a tournament where a pitcher was clocked at 79 mph. He said that speed seemed a lot faster when the pitcher is standing 41 feet away.

Zenner said he was hopeful that more young people from Newton would get involved in the tradition of the fast-pitch softball. Newton has two teams entered in the tournament this year, but he said the threat always existed that Newton wouldn’t field a team if the younger generations don’t get interested in playing.

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