A community game: Annual Latino basketball tourneys tip offPublished 11:44am Monday, May 20, 2013
On any given weekend, you can drive to Rotary Centennial Park in Austin and take in a basketball game during an afternoon. Or, you could take in an entire basketball tournament, one of several organized in Austin each summer by Asuncion Sandoval.
Sandoval is the man in charge of a local Hispanic basketball group, which organizes tournaments for local and former residents each year.
“They’re very happy that there’s something to do here,” Sandoval said of the group.
Locals have played tournaments in Austin each summer for the past six or seven years, though they used to play ball in the southwest part of town. Sandoval said the group, which used to have 15 to 20 teams, eventually grew too big and was thrown out of the park it used to play at because of the amount of people who would park there. With Rotary Centennial Park, he said, ball players and their families had plenty of space to play.
The tournaments are open to the public, however, and Sandoval said each team’s dues are sent to Oaxaca, Mexico, at the end of each summer to help school children.
This year’s tournaments started Saturday, with a 10-team scrimmage throughout the day. Mayor Tom Stiehm cut a ceremonial ribbon to officially open the season Saturday afternoon. Stiehm said it felt good to be a part of the opening ceremony and to reach out to the Hispanic community.
“The picture’s going to be changing soon with our Hispanic population,” he said. “A lot of [undocumented] residents are going to be able to have legal status and when that happens, we have to have more dialogue.”
Both Stiehm and Sandoval acknowledged how difficult it has been for local Hispanics to organize tournaments. Aside from getting thrown off the courts in the southwest part of town, Sandoval told Stiehm many of the players relocated to Arcadia, Wis., two years ago after Quality Pork Processors, Inc., went through a large staff overhaul. Many of those families with undocumented family members are afraid to drive back to Austin for fear they’ll be stopped by police, who could then potentially arrest and turn them over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
Yet Sandoval said the group is still strong, and he expects more teams than the 10 who showed up Saturday to join tournaments throughout the summer.
“It’s a good time,” he said.