2017 is the 40th anniversary of the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA). Wow. It’s hard to believe 40 years of the Gay Softball World Series (GSWS) are already on the books, and the 41st GSWS is coming to Portland, Oregon from September 3-10, 2017.
NAGAAA has come a long way over the last 40 years and perhaps the theme for the upcoming Portland series says it best, “Progress, Pride, and Play!” I had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Balton, NAGAAA’s commissioner and Roy Melani, director of the 2017 Portland series as they shared some insight into plans for the 2017 year. Roy also serves as assistant commissioner in the open division on Portland’s Rose City Softball Association (RCSA), the member city group playing host for the 2017 series.
The upcoming year won’t be the first time NAGAAA takes over the west coast but it’s been awhile since the series has been out west. Seattle hosted the GSWS in 2008, San Diego in 2005, and Portland back in 2002, making it 15 years since Portland has played host. Roy is excited about members of RCSA showcasing Portland and how it has changed over the last 15 years, saying that “Portland is a very progressive city and NAGAAA will be a big fish in a small pond.”
Having been openly welcomed by the mayor and governor as a destination for softball players, Roy notes that with the ocean and great hiking less than an hour away, the RCSA is very excited to have lots of fun while they show off the area to the rest of North America. However, he offers this caveat – they cannot control Mother Nature but they do hope the climate in Portland will create an environment that people will not forget. As for the weather, Roy says not to fret. “We will have some turf fields that can be used should there be rain.”
But what seems to make Roy the most excited is what he calls the “Portland Experience for the Athlete.” According to him, “This will include over 450 volunteers for the week setting up concierge services.” The volunteers’ duties will include helping teams find restaurants for their team dinners and even making reservations for them as well as arranging off-site accommodations for trips to the Columbia River Gorge and a wine tasting tour of the Willamette valley for those who come early and help with field operations.
Since hotel rates are far less for Portland during this time of year, Roy encourages players to come early and enjoy what Portland has to offer. While the city is looking forward to the upcoming series, NAGAAA commissioner Chris says the 40th Anniversary of NAGAAA brings a “deep commitment” of leaders to the organization.
Seeking a third term as the NAGAAA commissioner, he reveals that growth is the organization’s biggest hurdle going into its 40th anniversary. While saying that adult softball is declining in North America, he shared that NAGAAA has shown growth since 2000. Ironically, according to Chris, “This poses a challenge for member cities who want to host the GSWS since without softball complexes they won’t be able to accommodate the 200 teams and 5,000 players who attend our annual marquee event.”
Founded in 1977, NAGAAA is the largest LGBT sports organization in the country. For more information on NAGAAA and getting involved, visit one of the member cities through the organization website at
By Kyle Miller
Kyle Miller is chair of marketing and communications for NAGAAA.
Photos courtesy of NAGAAA