Love is love. It makes us want to share our feelings, experiences and passions with one another. In many cases, that love blossoms into a lifetime of partnership and memories. We never know when that moment will hit. The moment when you fall in love – it could happen while enjoying a night out on the town, running errands, at church or even at a softball tournament.
For Derick White, it was the latter and not the former.
It was a blistering hot Texas day in September of 2014 when Derick first spotted the future love of his life. The NAGAAA Gay Softball World Series gathered a record 165 teams together for a week of competition, fun and memories. But in the D Division tournament there was something special brewing.
“We had just finished playing our last tourney game of the day on Thursday and I glanced up and saw this tall handsome man looking at me,” Derick said. Unforgettable relationships often start with a glance or stare, a passionate look shared between two strangers. Little did they know that from the moment they locked eyes they would be nearly inseparable from then on.
Derick’s counterpart in this new love affair was Brad Taylor. Brad lived in the Dallas area and played for a Dallas team from the tournament host city. Their budding relationship would hit a few speed bumps from the start. Their respective teams played each other the very next day with the game resulting in a protest that ousted Brad’s team from the tournament. Additionally, Derick suffered damage to the PCL in his knee and played the rest of the tournament on that injured knee. However, through pain and heartache, competition and loss, the bond between them was undeniable. Their feelings for each other not only persevered, they continued to blossom.
Softball is a fun game, but gay softball and the Gay Softball World Series is special. It brings together individuals who at many times have felt left out or marginalized in our often-polarized world. Outside of the Gay Softball World Series, just being a part of a local LGBTQ softball league can provide limitless benefits. Gay softball can be life-changing and world-altering in the most positive of ways. “I am lucky that I found gay softball so quickly after coming out,” said Derick.
The ability to visualize and experience other LGBTQ people excelling and achieving in athletics is powerful. Only LGBTQ people understand what it is like to come out and tell their story. Playing gay softball allows people to let their guard down to be who they are in a safe space. “When I first came out, I honestly thought that there wasn’t anyone else like me. I was finally able to be myself and play a game I loved with others who were like me,” Derick explained.
Derick and Brad’s relationship gradually grew stronger after the tournament. The two began a long-distance relationship for some time with Derick flying to Dallas and Brad flying to Kansas City. They would plan weekend getaways together to some of their favorite destinations, like New York City. Finally, Derick moved to Dallas to be with Brad and start a new chapter in both of their lives. Eventually, a job transfer took them both to Minneapolis where they’ve settled further into their beautiful union.
It was in Minneapolis on a Saturday evening in June in front of family and friends and many that they had both played softball with that they said their vows. They pledged their undying love for one another and combined their last names to become Taylor-White. It was a beautiful ceremony for two beautiful people who were brought together by gay softball.
Both grooms had a former softball teammate in the wedding party, further solidifying that it wasn’t just their relationship that was forged through playing ball. NAGAAA is about relationships, family and making memories that will last a lifetime. This has been Derick’s experience, too. “Thanks to NAGAAA, I have family all over the country. I wouldn’t change that aspect of playing gay softball for anything.
“Trying something new can be intimidating but you will find that most people love to play and are genuinely accepting of new players. I owe a lot of my smiles and laughs to playing in NAGAAA. Plus, I found my husband and I couldn’t ask for a better award than that,” Derick said.
Sports can be daunting and so can falling in love. Luckily for Derick and Brad, they met both those challenges and will now have the rest of their lives to reap the rewards.
By Jeff Sloan
Photo courtesy of NAGAAA Archives
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