Annual softball tourney celebrates the life of James Mendoza
     2014-08-07      By Doug Harris    dougharris@geringcitizen.com
Courtesy Photo - Pictured is James Mendoza who passed away at the age of 20. Mendoza’s family puts on an annual softball tournament each year to celebrate his life. 
When a young man leaves this world shortly after turning 20 years old he leaves behind an empty spot that can never be filled but the family of James Mendoza gathers together every year to celebrate his life and his spirit. James was an avid baseball fan and by all accounts an excellent athlete. His mother, Mary Ann Mendoza said he had dreams of one day becoming a pro.

This weekend the Carpenter Center in Terrrytown will host the Fifth Annual James Mendoza Memorial Coed Softball Tournament. The round robin-single elimination tournament will begin Friday evening and continue through Sunday. Around a dozen teams are expected to participate. “We had 13 teams last year,” Mendoza said. “Most of the teams are local or nearby. One group is coming up from Kimball.”

All day Saturday the Carpenter Center ball diamonds will be bustling with activity while D.J. Edward Salazar provides music for the event. “It is nice to see James’ school friends and former teammates get back together and play,” Mendoza said. “Relatives visit and it is kind of like a family reunion. We expect friends and family from Colorado, North Platte, Kearney and Texas.”

Mendoza said on Saturday evening there will be a reception at the Eagles Club. “We all get together and talk about my son so his spirit lives on. We share memories. It is all about James. We do this to keep his spirit alive.”

James was a 2008 Gering High School graduate and active with many Bulldogs teams during his time in high school. He went on to pitch for the Gering American Legion team and also played for the Valley Bank Bruins. James volunteered his time with youth programs sharing his love of baseball with other up and comers who shared his love for the sport.

“It is hard to believe it has been five years,” his mother said. “I’m doing good, with great support. That is what helps me. We hold the tournament every August because his birthday was August 14, 1989. He would have been 25 years old this year.”

Mendoza said the tournament was free and open to the public and anyone who wants to attend is welcome. “We might have a little rain on Friday but we think things will be fun. We really do all reunite and have a great time.”

Plaques and T-shirts will be awarded to the top two finishing teams and all proceeds from the tourney will benefit the family of James Mendoza and Carpenter Center youth programs. The ball park is located at 116 Terry Boulevard in Terrytown. For more information call: (308) 635-8422.

“This is a celebration of life for James,” Mendoza said. “He is gone but not forgotten.”

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