Of the many activities our community is involved with, there is nothing like a friendly game of softball.
The Twin Cities always had a tradition of GLBT softball. The Twin Cities Goodtime Softball League just wrapped up their 34th season with the largest field of teams and participants in their history. All 38 teams participated in a series of playoffs on the final weekend of July at the Northview Athletic Complex in Eagan after enduring the long season at their regular season home in Northeast Minneapolis.
However, softball season is not exactly over. In fact, the competition has just turned up a notch. Starting on August 13, the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance will bring their annual culminating softball event to our backyard—Eagan and Inver Grove Heights, to be exact.
As the Twin Cities GLBT community welcomes the 2012 Gay Softball World Series, local organizers are fine-tuning the details to welcome teams from all over the United States. In all, up to 160 teams will participate in the Gay Softball World Series in five competitive divisions. Potentially, this represents over 3,000 athletes participating in the Series. Consider that the NAGAAA represents 44 leagues across North America. The TCGSL will be fielding ten teams in four out of the five divisions.
This is not the first time the Twin Cities hosted the Gay Softball World Series. The last time the area last hosted what is now one of the largest annual GLBT sporting events was in 1996. According to John Thomas, the Commissioner of the TCGSL, the 1996 Series hosted 120 teams. This will be the 36th NAGAAA World Series to be held since 1977.
To kick off the weeklong competition, the Series’s Opening Ceremonies will be held at the Nicollet Island Pavilion. Miss Richfield 1981 will perform for the hundreds of visiting athletes and local supporters of the World Series. Even before the first pitch will be thrown, events are being held at various venues across the Twin Cities, with the host hotel being the Crowne Plaza Hotel near the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Other venues being used for World Series events are Seven restaurant, the Pantages Theater, Hell’s Kitchen, Target Plaza, the EagleBolt bar, The Depot, and the Minneapolis Armory. Events at these venues range from social gatherings to traditional events, such as the Thursday’s Hall of Fame Dinner at Seven. This year, the NAGAAA Hall of Fame will induct twelve new members, including TCGSL Commissioner Thomas.
Lavender Magazine’s annual Out in The Stands event was also integrated onto the Series’s schedule. The Minnesota Twins will face the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday, August 14 with a limited number of tickets made available to Series participants.
Some of these events will be fundraisers for local community non-profits. Among the benefactors for this year’s Series events will be the Rainbow Health Collective, the Aegis Foundation, Project Healthy Smile, the Bridge for Youth, and various other local organizations.
Though these events provide opportunities for social interaction between the participants and the community, the most important piece of the Gay Softball World Series is the competition. The primary venue for the games will be Northview Athletic Complex in Eagan. Every Memorial Day weekend, the Northstar Classic tournament is held on these fields. The number of diamonds available, along with a history of use by the TCGSL, was one the primary reasons for the Twin Cities to be chosen to host this year’s Series.
Other games will be held nearby at the Lexington Diffley Athletic Complex in Eagan and the Rich Valley Athletic Complex in Inver Grove Heights. Between the three venues, there will be a total of 18 fields scheduled for games throughout the week.
To add value to this year’s Gay Softball World Series, the host hotel was positioned in proximity to the three field venues and to Metro Transit’s Hiawatha light rail for access to events up in downtown Minneapolis. Out-of-town teams were also set up with six select hotels to choose from. These hotels were arranged with blocks of rooms made available to out-of-town participants either in downtown Minneapolis
or right by the airport and Mall of America.
As part of the local effort to make the Series more accessible to everyone, volunteers were enlisted to provide various functions to participants and fans alike. For example, some volunteers will serve as concierges throughout the week at the ball fields, the host hotel, and the Opening Ceremony to assist out-of-town guests. Additional volunteers serve to assist in every aspect of the Series—from field marshalling to backstage assistance at events. Thomas stated that “300 to 350 volunteers” will be utilized throughout the week. In all, “about 500 to 550 people that have been involved in some way,” said Thomas, some of whom have been working behind the scenes in planning and executing the events in and around the Series.
This year’s Series will introduce some new features never before seen in prior years. For example, local food trucks will be on site at the ball fields—a first for the NAGAAA World Series. Plus, Thomas mentioned that the Series is also “on the threshold of technological advances,” making this event more team, player, and fan friendly. We should know more about these “technological advances” closer to the start of the Series.
Underneath the competition and the events around the Series is the human factor—especially when you have over 3,000 participants, volunteers, and other key individuals involved in this event. “Yes,“ said Thomas, “the softball is our mission, but it is more than a game. There are so many individual stories within the league, within NAGAAA, of coming out stories, of finding relationship stories.” Thomas added that the players and other participants are usually “a very social group” that will be out and about.
When asked what you should do to get involved with the Gay Softball World Series, Thomas replied: “Come watch, participate, look at the schedule of all of the events that are going on, and get to know us.”
In all, for the Twin Cities, Thomas concludes that this year’s Gay Softball World Series “is a big thing—a really big thing.”
For a full schedule of events and other information on the games, the teams, and ways to participate, log on to the Gay Softball World Series website at www.twincities2012series.org.