| TOM QUEEN
FOR THE SECOND TIME time in just five years, Columbus is hosting the NAGAAA Gay Softball World Series. It is a big event that will bring thousands of athletes into the city for the games. Watching over them all, as well as participating as a player himself, is Columbus’ own Keith Speers.
Keith, originally from the Chicago area, “grew up in a ball-playing family.” His dad was a coach, and, as he puts it: “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t play ball.” In fact, he has been playing the game for 43 years. Keith was one of the tallest kids in his class, as well as an athlete, and never recalls being bullied for being “different.” However, he always watched over those kids who couldn’t hide their “differences” to ensure that they wouldn’t be picked on.
For many of these “different kids,” it seemed inconceivable to be “out” and an athlete. For many just like Keith, finding NAGAAA and gay softball was almost salvation. In Keith’s words: “I found home. There were tons of people just like me.” Keith first played gay softball in Chicago, then later in San Diego. When he first came to Columbus, the city’s gay softball league was not a member of the NAGAAA (North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance) organization. There were only five cities which were part of NAGAAA when its first World Series debuted in 1976. Keith made his debut as a player in the World Series in 1991.
Keith started out as a player in Columbus, then was named a national delegate to NAGAAA, serving in that capacity from 2010 to 2014. He was named the Ethics Chair in 2011, and just this year was named the Assistant Commissioner/Athletic Director for the entire organization. In this capacity, he will be watching over all the games to ensure fair play. He is responsible for execution of the ratings system, the rules of play, and administering the execution of the tournament (including the brackets and game schedules).
Keith shares that NAGAAA can’t say enough good things about Columbus, especially considering its successful run as the host city in 2010. Columbus is, in fact, the first city to host the World Series twice within a five-year interval since NAGAAA consisted of only five participating cities. “Fields, proximity, convenience make Columbus a great host city.” Indeed, many in NAGAAA would love to see Columbus host every year.
The 2015 Gay Softball World Series is a major event in the city’s summer schedule. The opening ceremonies will be held downtown at The Columbus Commons on Monday, August 17th. The event is open to all, with a modest admission fee for non-players, and will feature nationally known “out and proud” country artist, Ty Herndon. The tournament’s games will be held at Berliner Park, the largest group of playing fields in one place in the entire country. So get out there and cheer on the players. Let’s show Keith and all of our visitors that we’re “All In!”