By Ian Colgate
When you think of Gay Softball what comes to mind? If you are like most gay softball enthusiasts, the Gay Softball World Series (GSWS) should be bouncing like ground balls in your head.
Yes, if it’s August, then the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance, better known as NAGAAA, is busy with its annual celebration that brings in teams from all over the U.S. and Canada. So mark your calendar for August 17-22.
Founded in 1977 and boasting over 800 member teams and 45 member leagues between the two countries, NAGAAA is the largest softball organization dedicated to promoting amateur athletics for the LGBT community. Keeping its focus on the importance of both gay and les- bian participants, NAGAAA inducted its first woman into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
The organization was formed to encourage gay men and lesbians to participate in competitive softball but with the steady growth of straight allies, it also encourages allied players to be part of the fun. NAGAAA started its Hall of Fame in 1997 as a way to honor the achievements of people and member cities that are committed to growing the sport of softball among the LGBT sports community.
The organization’s focus has always been on several things. In addition to promoting athletic competition and good physical health, it encourages the formation of new gay leagues and helping them during their start-up process.
Another focus is on encouraging the bonds of friend- ship that come from meeting and playing with athletes from other areas. Players who have met over the years at the GSWS have formed lifetime friendships. It also provides an opportunity for LGBT athletes to play and social- ize together for a common goal.
At both the local and organization levels, fundraising activities at the GSWS and at local tournaments support national and local AIDS organizations and other charities. But the most high profile event produced each year by NAGAAA is the Gay Softball World Series. It is held in a different member-city each year and monies raised go to the host city.
This year’s host city is Columbus, Ohio which also hosted the GSWS in 2010. Large sporting events like the GSWS require cities with sports facilities able to handle such large numbers of teams and fans. And Columbus fits the bill on that score with 31 softball diamonds that are all in one location – Berliner Park, currently the largest soft- ball complex in the country.
In 2010 the economic impact on the city of Columbus came out to over $5 million. It brought with it huge windfalls for the Columbus area, both in improvements to parks and sporting venues and in cash flow from par- ticipants and spectators to the local businesses. Additionally, Columbus received significant media exposure for its inclusiveness.
More details can be found at gsws2015.com
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