NEXT MONTH COLUMBUS will be ALL IN hosting the largest annual gay sporting event in the world. The Gay Softball World Series is in its 39th year and this is the second year Columbus is hosting the event. With its 31 fields, Berliner Park is the largest softball park in the country and a prime location for this year’s tournament.
Here are a few of the faces behind the game and a peek into what to expect next month when over 200 teams come from around the world to compete in our great city.
Jason is from Columbus. He was introduced to the softball culture of Columbus through a friend. When his friend was no longer able to play on the team due to a scheduling conflict, Jason took his place. He describes the teams as being pretty tight knit and, above all, the camaraderie is amazing. Jason’s straight brother plays on his team and his parents even attend the games. The bonds between him and his teammates are very strong and the reciprocal support between his teammates and family show just how important these relationships are. Jason’s family involvement is so strong, when a couple on his team decided to get married, Jason’s parents were invited to the wedding. Jason describes how much he values his teammates and the bonds they have built as being something like a fraternity. No matter where they go, they have friends because of softball. “It’s kind of cool that there is another environment to engage with each other outside of bars.”
Tonya is from Knoxville, Tennessee. She has been with her team for over ten years. When she first started with her team, the park in which they played had them wait outside the gates until all the children were gone before they could approach the field. The fear and ignorance of the people there at the time was appalling. Now, ten years later, the parks welcome her and her teams. The league has become like family and through her league’s hard work and leadership, their community has come closer together in mutual respect and the common love of the game. “We are like brothers and sisters with different mothers and fathers,” she says, describing what the teams mean to her. “The tournaments usually fall on holiday weekends, so it feels like we get to spend the holidays with our family. We have each other’s backs in a heartbeat.” When describing her feelings about Columbus she describes our city as being a “warming” community. Tonya and her four teams are thrilled to come to Columbus in August for the world series to experience yet another world-class softball tournament in our beautiful, world-class city.
Darrin is originally from Delaware. Softball has been a huge part of Darrin’s life as an out gay man. His interest was sparked by watching Bat-N-Rouge during one Columbus Pride, but he was a little uncomfortable with his own sexuality and the gay community at first. After meeting some of the guys and hitting it off, he joined the Columbus team. The camaraderie the team and league offered gave him the courage to become comfortable in his own skin and allowed him to meet and be comfortable around many different people. Determined to play in the Gay Softball World Series before Columbus had NAGAAA representation, he joined the Pittsburgh league in 2004. He made the six hour round-trip drive every weekend in order to stay on the team. He went with that team to San Diego for his first Gay Softball World Series and his love for the game grew even stronger. He came back to Columbus and shared his experience with his teammates and the league and encouraged them to seek NAGAAA representation so Columbus could be represented in the coming World Championships. In 2010, he was a part of the bidding committee to host the World Series for the first time in Columbus, which we won. “It is so cool to have people from all over the country and Canada in Columbus. It is a great opportunity to showcase our city and our community. Berliner park allows for the whole event to be held in one area and allows more people to be directly involved.” This August, 10 years after the 2005 games in San Diego, Columbus is hosting the event for the second time at Berliner Park and Darrin will again be a part of this amazing event with people from around the world right here in our great city.
Brad is from Tulsa, Oklahoma. He got involved in softball in 2008 when a few guys from Dallas moved to Tulsa and posted an ad in an attempt to get a gay softball team started. Brad has always been athletic and was playing city league softball at the time. His initial reaction was, “huh, this is going to be interesting.” He immediately noticed the learning and teaching curves he would be working with when he joined the team. Spurred on by a history of playing sports, he took on the opportunity to build friendships with the guys and, using his athletic inclinations, helped their teams become successful. In the first year, enough people signed up for the team that they actually had two and a half. Their debut world series was in Chicago in 2011. His team finished 8th. By the time the tournament was over, they had already begun to plan the next one in the Twin Cities. He took the same group of guys and finished 2nd in Minneapolis. Brad describes his experience with the league as being extremely positive and that it builds camaraderie and bridges between the straight and gay communities in Tulsa. Brad is thrilled to bring his team to Columbus in August to play in this exciting tournament.