Reflection: The Impact of NAGAAA

I grew up the son of a basketball coach in Kansas.  My first memories of athletics were my Dad picking me up from school before the occasional afternoon basketball practice.  I would shoot on the side goals in the gym while he directed his players on the main floor.  I’d help him run the clock during practice, do the laundry, check stats from the game video and I spent countless hours thumbing through NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball team media guides.

My Dad has coached at the high school, junior college and NAIA levels for over 25 years.  It was important to him during his junior college coaching years to get as many media guides from major four-year programs as he could so that his players always had the information in front of them to take the next step in their basketball careers and lives.  I think that’s where I caught my affinity for writing, learning, information and communication.  I read those media guides so many evenings while he would work late at the office.  So much in fact that I became a walking men’s college basketball encyclopedia.  I would go on road trips with his teams from time to time and his players would always try to stump me with odd ball questions like, “What arena does Wright State University play basketball in? (It’s the Nutter Center, by the way.)  They rarely caught me without a correct answer.  During the road games I’d fold the warm ups and get the players towels and water.  We’d pick up a fast food meal on the way out-of-town and burn rubber heading back home.

All of those late weeknight and long weekend trips as a kid were tough sometimes, but I  loved every second of it.  I enjoyed being involved with sports and basketball in particular.  I was living the good life as a young kid getting to hang around a college basketball team, but little did I know that I was getting a master class in managing and working with people.  Those experiences have come in handy throughout the remainder of my life to this point.  If I could have done anything differently, I would have paid attention more and I paid attention plenty!

Throughout the rest of my childhood, sports became an even bigger part of my life.  My brother and I played just about every sport we could.  My Dad never really pushed us or told us we had to play.  We liked it and we were good at just about everything we did.  However, my brother was much better than me.  I always envied his height and athletic ability.  He was an outstanding basketball and baseball player.  Football and golf were more in my wheelhouse.  Athletics taught me a lot about people and about what social norms were supposed to be.  Later I would realize that sometimes sports can teach us the wrong lessons too.

High school came and went quickly with me finding my way as an athlete, girlfriends and school dances.  It was a pivotal time in my life.  I knew I was different and from time to time several others questioned that.  Somehow I usually found a way to diffuse a tricky situation that made me feel bad about who I knew I was, but even then it became increasingly harder to hide my feelings.

Young adulthood proved to be the hardest point of my life as I started to doubt my goal track given that I was attracted to the same-sex.  I was on my way to becoming a major college basketball coach, or at least I thought I was.  I joined my Dad’s staff as a team manager and later a student assistant.  My summers were filled with working basketball camps at the University of Kansas among other programs in the region along with AAU tournaments and high school basketball all-star games.  I even coached high school football for two years after I turned down the opportunity to play college football myself.  While I eventually gave up my dream of being a college basketball coaching star I learned valuable lessons in those years about how important connecting with people really is.

One of the more important moments in my life came while I was a student at the University of Kansas.  I was fortunate enough to work in the athletics department at KU while I was in school.  It was a dream come true for a young man who grew up a Jayhawks fan, cheering on Roy Williams’ teams and the fantastic program he built throughout the 1990’s and beyond.  I watched every heart breaking NCAA tournament loss and I rarely missed a game.  As I approached that magical age of 21, I should have been having the time of my life, but I was suffering from a sickness.  I was lying to myself and to so many people around me about who I was and who I loved.

The weight of my secret became to heavy to bear.  I wanted out.  I wanted to be normal.  There were countless nights spent staring at the ceiling in bed, tears welling up in my eyes wondering why I felt the way I did all the while confused about my life and my future.  Eventually I made the choice that I didn’t want to live anymore.  It got too hard to bear the burden of my shame.  I knew there was no place for an openly gay man as a leader of men in athletics and I wasn’t getting a lot of support from the people I thought I needed it from the most.  Luckily, I walked myself off of that ledge and made the decision to come out to my immediate family and friends.  I felt like a boulder had been removed from my shoulders and life improved for a short while.  The problem became that I felt lost in a whole new way because I had resigned myself to the fact that there wasn’t a place for me in sports due to who I was.

Fast forward a few years to 2008.  It was a good year for many reasons.  My Jayhawks won the Orange Bowl, beating Virginia Tech to go 12-1 (yes, I’m talking Kansas football) and our basketball team won its first National Championship in 20 years when they beat Memphis in overtime.  I was fortunate enough to be there in person for both of those events.  It’s something I’ll always remember and treasure.  Later that summer I had begun dating a guy.  One evening he called me to offer an invitation to come watch his slow pitch softball game in Shawnee, Kansas. The following afternoon I pulled into the parking lot at Mid-America Sports Complex without a clue that the single biggest moment in my life would be coming up very shortly.

I walked through the gates and made a left to go to fields 5 through 8 where they were playing.  I arrived to a scene that I will never forget.  Full softball teams completely made up of LGBT people playing sports, being uniquely themselves and enjoying the benefits of team sports in a safe environment.  That scene, that snapshot in time changed my life.  That was the day that I joined the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance.  The next spring I joined a thrown together team of new misfit players just to get out on the field.  The relationship with the guy didn’t work out, but my love of NAGAAA was born from it.

That image of people who were just like me participating in sports openly and at a competitive level was emblazoned in my mind.  I started to become more involved with my local league in Kansas City, meeting many friends that I still have today.  I would start my first stint on the Heart of America Softball League board just a year after I joined the league.  The more that I involved myself in my local league the more strides I made in my personal life.  It allowed me to accept myself and to show those people the door that didn’t want to accept or understand my struggle.

Before I knew it I was managing a team and in my first year in that role our team qualified for the Gay Softball World Series.  I was 25 and still trying to figure life out.  Everybody matures at a different rate and my maturation process still needed time to cook.  Needless to say, we were a rag-tag group.  The majority of the team were first year players that were younger than 26.  We brought the minimum amount of players and it was a struggle to get ten players to go.

There wasn’t money for flights to Columbus, Ohio. We packed a Toyota Corolla with four guys, three of us living in Lawrence, Kansas driving to pick up a teammate in Kansas City on the way to the tournament.  None of us had vacation time or job tenure.  We couldn’t leave until Monday night due to our work schedules as most of us were in service industry jobs and in school.  Our late departure from Kansas City meant we would miss GSWS Opening Ceremonies, something that we didn’t really understand the significance of at that time, but later would.  We drove all night only stopping for gas in Saint Louis, Missouri and Terre Haute, Indiana.

We passed the sign for Dayton, Ohio on I-70 as the sun was coming up on Tuesday morning at around 7 am.  Our car filled with weary travelers arrived at the Hyatt Regency and after parking the car we passed out for a 90 minute power nap before putting on our uniforms to head for Lou Berliner Park.  We were exhausted.  That was to be expected considering we had just driven over ten hours through the night.  We arrived at the ball park, our overnight travel scars visible by way of our haggard looking faces.

When we arrived, the game that was on the field before ours had started.  Pittsburgh was a NAGAAA member city then and their D team was playing.  Players were able to take naps on picnic tables to get a little more rest in because a Pittsburgh player broke his ankle sliding into second base.  An ambulance had to remove him from the field and he was carted off after around a 30 minute delay.  After the field delays, it was finally our time to shine.  Our first opponent was the Houston Wave.  A big polar bear type of man from their team came over and introduced himself as their manager. The umpire came over soon thereafter to check bats and do the coin flip before the current game on the field was over to try to get the field back on time.

The Houston manager smiled at me and said, “First time here?”.  I said yes and he told me that he knew it.  I was a little nervous and he picked up on that.  We said “good luck” and went back to our teams.  In my mind I was thinking to myself that their uniforms were better, their roster was bigger and we were about to get our butts handed to us straight away.  I was already trying to figure out what I was going to tell my guys if we got run ruled so they wouldn’t think it was a waste of time to come to the tournament.

Then the game started.  30 minutes later we had won by run rule 18 to 3.  Their coach was gracious in the handshake line and said, “You boys really want to be here, good luck.”  He was right.  We did want to be there.  We had driven all night to be there and by the end of that first game I knew that I was going to come back to every Gay Softball World Series I could for the rest of my life.  It ended up being one the best weekends of my life.  Columbus was a fabulous host city.  Looking back on it from a visitor’s point of view, I would have never guessed it was their first time hosting.

Since that tournament I’ve had the privilege of growing as an individual while the organization of NAGAAA grew too.  I’ve been able to become a leader in my local league in Kansas City as a board member and tournament director.  I started travelling to NAGAAA member city tournaments in 2012 and that only increased my want to be more involved.  To date, I only have 13 more tournaments to go to attend them all and I intend to reach that goal in the very near future.  After several years, I began this blog to highlight the organization that I had grown to love.  I’ve had tremendous opportunities from gay softball along with the privilege of knowing and working with some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life.  I know that there will be many more memorable people in the future that I have yet to meet.

My story is the story of NAGAAA.  It’s about a young man who was lost.  Someone that had left himself for dead emotionally and physically, finding himself through the community that we have built-in and around gay softball.  NAGAAA didn’t just change my life, it saved my life.  I believe in my heart that I would not be here today had I not watched that first softball game in 2008.

Sharing my experience is partly therapy and partly my way of telling people what this organization does for its members, prospective members and what it means to people all across North America.  I carry these memories with me in everything I do, but especially when I carry out business on behalf of my league and on behalf of NAGAAA.  These experiences shape my purpose and fuel my work to ensure that this organization is around for another 41 years for young men or women that find themselves in a similar situation to mine.

Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said.  People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

NAGAAA made me feel wanted, important and worthy at a point in my life when I didn’t want myself.  If there is one thing I’ve learned as a gay man it’s that there is no better time than the present to tell your story and live your truth.  That is the power of what we’ve all created with our gay softball community and to my NAGAAA family I say, tell your story and live your truth.  We’re here for you always.

Jeff Sloan founded the Diamond Dish Softball Blog to promote gay softball in 2014.  He has been a NAGAAA member for ten years and hopes to be for the rest of his life.

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2017 NAGAAA Summer Meetings: Wrap Up

Spirited, productive and efficient.  Choice words that best describe this year’s NAGAAA Summer Meetings.  Delegates from 44 member cities joined the NAGAAA Executive Board at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Portland, Oregon to discuss hot topics and get some business done on behalf of the members they represent.

Here are a few of the highlights from the meetings.  Enjoy!




The Portland 2017 World Series Committee spoke about this year’s tournament week and what the players and attendees could expect.  Roy Melani, Portland World Series Committee Executive Director addressed everyone along with his team.  The group spoke about everything from registration changes and events to fields and other need to know items.  Did you know you can’t pump your own gasoline in Oregon?



Saturday’s session brought a presentation by the Kansas City World Series Bid Committee complete with a welcome video from Kansas City’s mayor, multiple committee members speaking about fields, hotels, events and nightlife and an original video showcasing Kansas City out on the town and at the softball fields.  The tournament will return to Kansas City exactly 20 years following the last time Kansas City hosted the GSWS in 1999.  In a first for NAGAAA, Commissioner Chris Balton signed all hotel agreements and field complex contracts on Sunday in front of the council.  Check out Kansas City’s bid videos HERE.


A sub-committee was formed several months ago to look at the current player ratings questions and for that sub-committee to make recommendations on changes that could improve the system.  The recommended changes were presented with little negative discussion regarding the possibility of implementing them in the near future.  These are wholesale changes, not just to the wording of questions, but the recommendation includes new questions making 29 questions in total.  Additionally, the proposed changes add a “place hitting” question and provide standards for pitching included in throwing questions.  The council voted to use the information gained from this sub-committee and from another sub-committee that looked at the formation of an E Division and bring together a proposal for both new ratings questions and divisions at the 2018 NAGAAA Winter Meetings in Tampa, Florida.


A sub-committee was formed several months ago to make a recommendation to the council regarding adding an E Division to the NAGAAA divisional structure.  The sub-committee looked at data pertaining to player participation in NAGAAA as a whole and at the GSWS.  The sub-committee presented its recommendation on Saturday with the proposal to include a similar six division structure to what is currently in place.  However, the division cutoffs for what players could play in what division were changed.  The divisions as presented were D Division (player rated 0-8), C Division (players rated 9-12), B Division (players rated 13-16) and A Division (players rated 17 to 27).  Additional changes included lowering team caps in each division to improve lower rated player participation and a “soft cap” in the D Division that would allow a team to pickup one player rated up to 10 as long as that team stayed within the team cap number.  This subcommittee’s findings will accompany the ratings sub-committee’s findings in a new committee that is tasked with bringing an all-encompassing recommendation for both ratings questions and divisions at the 2018 NAGAAA Winter Meetings in Tampa, Florida.


No longer are teams limited to 11 players in the batting lineup.  A motion was unanimously passed to allow teams to bat up to 12 players in their lineup starting immediately at the 2017 GSWS in Portland.  The rationale behind the move was to make it easier for teams to include more players in GSWS games.  Managers can still make the decision to bat less than 12 players if they’d like.



Ron Frank, Tampa GSWS Committee Executive Director gave an update on how Tampa is preparing to host what could be a record amount of teams at next year’s GSWS.  A review of hotels, fields and event spaces were given.  A video was shown highlighting Tampa’s Ybor area where many events and nightlife destinations reside.  Teams should be chomping at the bit to get to Tampa next year with its beaches and reputation for hosting big time events like the Super Bowl and College Football’s Championship Game last year.


An exciting sneak peek of the new NAGAAA database was unveiled at the 2017 NAGAAA Summer Meetings.  The brief viewing of the new system showed a vastly improved system with the kind of functionality and speed that member city delegates have been asking for.  When the system is complete, it will provide a much faster and user-friendly database that should result in fewer errors that have effected player ratings and player identification information for years.


Montreal, Quebec, Canada terminated its association with NAGAAA in the months leading up to the 2017 NAGAAA Summer Meetings.  The association cited repeated issues with being able to field a team at the GSWS as the main reason for ending its NAGAAA membership.  Montreal would have been up removal from NAGAAA due to its absence from the World Series in recent history.  New NAGAAA member cities Des Moines, Iowa and Indianapolis, Indiana both failed to bring a team to this year’s GSWS.  San Antonio brought a team in the C Division to compete in Portland.

Check back with us for updates from the week of fun and games in Portland at the 2017 Gay Softball World Series.  Special posts will be made for tonight’s NAGAAA Hall of Fame Dinner and other happenings taking place the rest of this week.


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2017 NAGAAA Winter Meetings: Wrap Up


The 2017 NAGAAA Winter Meetings wrapped up late on Sunday, January 29th at the Doubletree by Hilton in Portland, Oregon.  The meetings saw member city delegates, NAGAAA committee chairs and the NAGAAA Executive Board come together to talk about issues, make changes and do the not so glamorous business that allows the organization to thrive.  We’ll break down the buzz worthy moments during the weekend of meetings.

Is the GSWS Heading to Kansas City in 2019?

It appears so as NAGAAA Commissioner, Chris Balton announced early on during the meetings that Kansas City was the only city that submitted an intent to bid for the 2019 World Series.  The Kansas City GSWS committee will still present its bid at the 2019 NAGAAA Summer Meetings in Portland and the bid must be certified by the NAGAAA Executive Board.  Should Kansas City be certified as the 2019 host, it would be the smallest member city (by league membership) to host the GSWS since…Kansas City in 1999.

 Rehashing The Rain…

The Austin World Series Committee was represented at the meetings where they reported ending financials, talked about the challenging week that was the 2016 GSWS and how they are working with the NAGAAA Executive Board and the state of Texas to recoup money from expenses laid out for the tournament.  A big shout out went to all of the volunteers from NAGAAA that helped get the fields playable during the washout week.


Softball Austin Commissioner, Albert Rodriguez wraps up the 2016 GSWS to the NAGAAA delegation at the 2017 NAGAAA Winter Meetings.

Portland Gearing Up To Host the GSWS

The 2017 GSWS is just 7 months away and the Portland GSWS Committee is hard at work to bring you an awesome player experience while in Oregon this September.  If you’ve never been to Portland, it’s a beautiful and weird place full of fun things to see and do.  Roy Melani, Portland GSWS Committee Director laid out all the plans along with his committee during the meetings.  They even treated some of the new delegates to their amazing bid video that they showed during their winning bid presentation.  If you haven’t seen it, you’ve got to give it a look.  Check it out HERE!


Portland GSWS Committee speaks at the 2017 NAGAAA Winter Meetings.

NAGAAA Welcomed 3 New Member Cities Into The Fold

It was a banner membership weekend for NAGAAA as several years worth of work in engaging gay softball leagues around the country resulted in three new cities that were voted in to join NAGAAA immediately.  Representatives from the Pride Sports League of Central Iowa (Des Moines, Iowa), Circle City Pride Softball (Indianapolis, Indiana) and the San Antonio Gay Softball League (San Antonio, Texas) all went through a vetting process, attended at least two consecutive NAGAAA meetings and answered questions in front of a packed house in the membership committee meeting prior to being voted on.  Each city brought forth their current league financials and talked about what their plan would be to field teams on a yearly basis at the NAGAAA World Series.  Each city was voted into NAGAAA unanimously as this international organization has now grown from 43 to 46 member cities.

2017 NAGAAA Cup

Automatic bids to the GSWS will be on the line at the 2017 NAGAAA Cup in Columbus, Ohio, May 5th – 7th.  This is a departure from the Memorial Day Weekend spot that the tournament had been in.  Dallas, Texas fought through weather challenges last year to host the NAGAAA Cup in late May of 2016.  The NCAA Division I Men’s Volleyball Championship is being held in Columbus, Ohio the same weekend providing a cross-promotional sports opportunity during tournament weekend.  Dallas Aldridge, former 2015 GSWS Director is heading up the host committee as Columbus is planning a great weekend for A Division and B Division NAGAAA teams.

Is NAGAAA’s International Presence Growing?

It’s not exactly clear, but we do know that representatives from Halifax, Nova Scotia have been in talks with NAGAAA officials about potentially joining.  This comes at the same time as Canadian cities like Montreal and Toronto are having trouble taking a team to the GSWS on a yearly basis.  Continuing outreach to Canadian cities will be critical for NAGAAA in the future, not only from an overall membership standpoint, but in terms of growth and to stay in good standing as an international organization.


NAGAAA Delegates pack a large meeting room at the Doubletree by Hilton in Portland, Oregon for the 2017 NAGAAA Winter Meetings.

Tampa Is Busy Preparing For The 2018 GSWS

Ron Frank, GSWS 2018 Director was in attendance at the meetings to update the delegation on Tampa’s progress in hosting the event.  The highlights of the presentation included Tampa having two main host hotels right next to one another with public transportation located in between.  The committee is really playing up the ability to have a “Athletes Village” type of atmosphere with so many hotel rooms so close together.  With recent World Series tournaments being held in mostly landlocked areas it will be a nice change of pace for many attendees to be so close to the beach in 2018.

Hall of Fame  Nominations Are Open

Does your league have someone who has contributed to a level that is above and beyond the norm?  The time is now to nominate them for the NAGAAA Hall of Fame.  Nominations are being accepted through March 15th.  Click the link to be directed to the nomination site.  NAGAAA Hall of Fame Nomination Form

NAGAAA Governing Manual Approved

Many months of work by a select committee regarding a total revamping of the bylaws and NAGAAA Instruments of Governance resulted in a new NAGAAA Governing Manual being approved.  Over 80 items were brought up to be adjusted, changed and removed from the new manual prior to it being approved.  This info is good know for the local league membership that thinks their dues are sending their board members on a “vacation” to the NAGAAA meetings.  The hard work of the committee should be applauded as they spent countless hours on the manual, even holding a webinar that was open to the public prior to the 2017 Winter Meetings.

Board Elections See A New Face and A Few Familiar Ones

There were three NAGAAA Executive Board positions up for election at the meetings in Portland.  The Member at Large position and the Treasurer position both had candidates running unopposed.  Richard Twomey was elected to the Member at Large positions by unanimous consent, as was Jerry Travis to the Treasurer position.  The NAGAAA Commissioner position heard comments from three candidates, John Hunking of Toronto, Kevin Riddle, acting Assistant Commissioner from Nashville and Chris Balton, acting Commissioner from Memphis.  A brief closed-door question and answer session was done for each candidate so that the delegation could get a better idea of why each person was running to lead the organization.  In the end, Chris Balton carried enough votes to be re-elected to the NAGAAA Commissioner role for another 2 year term.


The NAGAAA Executive Board taking care of business at the 2017 NAGAAA Winter Meetings in Portland, Oregon.

NAGAAA Targeting Corporate Dollars

The GSWS gets more expensive to host and run each year.  Catherine Kelly, NAGAAA Business Development member on the Executive Board understand that and gave an informative report on sponsorships and gifts that were attained in 2016 along with relationships that are opening up for the future.  Sponsors and major givers are beginning to understand that the NAGAAA family is a fiercely loyal consumer base to those businesses that support them.  The future looks to be bright as NAGAAA attempts to continually improve its solvency and ability to weather any potential financial storms.

The highlights of the 2017 NAGAAA Winter Meetings come as we face uncertain times in the United States.  The anger and resentment that much of the country feels regarding the current political climate and what that means for the LGBT community along with other minorities is palpable.  Regardless of the direction the current United States presidential administration goes in we must take solace in each other and the activities in our lives that bring us together as a community.  Softball is that activity for thousands of LGBT men and women across North America.  Send your message of love, acceptance and inclusiveness through softball.  Support your local LGBT softball league.  If your league isn’t a member of NAGAAA, have your local board look into it, because we’re stronger together than fractured apart.

Remember this:  Through discrimination and fear, through hate and ignorance, through hypocrisy and greed, softball and the LGBT community endures.

Good luck to all of the NAGAAA member cities that have started their 2017 leagues and to the ones that are on the brink of kicking off their seasons!  A great year of softball is underway.

The Diamond Dish softball blog was started in 2014 by Jeff Sloan in Kansas City as a way to improve communication in the gay softball community and promote North American gay softball across the world.  If you have something that would make a good story in your city, contact us at today.  



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NAGAAA Hall of Famers Deserve Our Timeless Respect


Did you go to the NAGAAA Hall of Fame Dinner event at last year’s GSWS?  If not, you missed an unbelievable and often emotional night honoring all of our brothers and sisters that have paved the way for today’s gay softball players to play the game in a nicer, safer and more accepting environment.


NAGAAA Archives showcasing photos and logos of Gay Softball World Series’ past.

In a week that was marred by an unusual weather pattern and what seemed like endless schedule changes, the Hall of Fame Dinner might have been the week’s crowning achievement in a tournament that was just happy to get champions crowned on Saturday.

The Bullock Texas State History Museum rotunda served as an amazing setting for the special evening as the NAGAAA Hall of Fame welcomed four new inductees into an elite group composed of former players, managers, delegates and board members.  The four inductees, Jim Ingrund & Dave Denninstoun of the Twin Cities, Mona Garcia of Milwaukee and Jim”Pearl” Bailey of Birmingham gave moving speeches.  All of the inductees showed the crowd why they love the game and reminded the audience of why this game is important.  After all, as Chris Balton, NAGAAA Commissioner stated at the event, “NAGAAA is about more than just softball”.

Roy Melani, NAGAAA Hall of Fame Director presided over the ceremony which featured a talk by the founders of Nike’s Be True campaign, videos outlining the tragic event in Orlando and an overview of the 40 year history of the GSWS were shown.  Hall of Famers received custom Hall of Fame jerseys, which were made by Right Choice, the official apparel provider of the GSWS.  Each jersey had the person’s last name on the back with the number indicating which year they were inducted into the Hall of Fame.


Personalized Hall of Fame jerseys were presented to each NAGAAA Hall of Fame member.



The NAGAAA Hall of Fame needs the help of younger players and managers to continue to grow the Hall of Fame and the induction ceremony at future World Series events.  Too many times we get wrapped up in what we are doing as individuals.  Players and managers should use the same principles in terms of how we treat our teammates and teams.  Support these trailblazers and legends of gay softball.  Support your “teammates”, because in a way, we are all on the same team now more than ever.


A quilt was made honoring all 40 Gay Softball World Series events.  The logo from each tournament was sewn into the quilt.

This year’s NAGAAA Hall of Fame Ceremony is set to take place at Nike Headquarters near Portland, Oregon and it might be the hottest Hall of Fame ticket yet.  Managers and their players should make plans now to be there and to offer their support for these people.  The magnitude of humility, honor and respect shown at this event moves even the most stoic attendee to tears.  These overachievers and influential names deserve our respect and celebration of their accomplishments, because in a way their accomplishments are OUR accomplishments.


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Building Relationships Key For Kelly In Business Development Role

This year’s Gay Softball World Series in Austin, Texas will be the biggest ever at 187 teams.  As the team count continues to rise at the GSWS the tournament costs rise too.  With NAGAAA putting a bigger emphasis on securing corporate partners to supplement its budget it is important to have someone in the Business Development role for the NAGAAA Executive Board that understands fundraising in the 21st century.

Catherine “CJ” Kelly stepped into the Business Development position on the NAGAAA Executive Board in early February after the 2016 NAGAAA Winter Meetings in Austin, Texas.  Ever since then, she has been working to embolden and improve the existing partnership pipeline and secure more funds for gay softball and the Gay Softball World Series.

Kelly understands relationships and more specifically, she understands how to foster, manage and grow business relationships to deliver positive results.  After all, that has been her record throughout her nearly 30 years of professional development work that she has done.  “I am working to build relationships with major corporations throughout the country to benefit NAGAAA at the international level and in target markets,” said Kelly.

Catherine is no stranger to working in the softball community at the local level.  A Kansas City area resident, Kelly spent several years playing softball and serving on the board of the Heart of America Softball League in Kansas City prior to coming on board as the NAGAAA Annual Giving & Sponsorship committee chairperson and also the NAGAAA Archives chairperson.  “Sitting on a committee as a chairperson gives you a lot of insight into the board and into different perspectives,” said Kelly.

The business development position on the NAGAAA Executive Board is a demanding job that comes with a lot of expectations CJ is ready to meet and hopefully exceed.  “I’ve found the role to be challenging with lots of opportunity for process changes.  Moving forward, business development efforts will be focused out at least two years in advance of a GSWS.  By the time Portland series rolls around, we should be wrapping up deals for Tampa and moving onto the 2019 GSWS,” added Kelly.

It takes passion and dedication to be effective in any of the roles on the NAGAAA Executive Board.  Kelly knows that it is a time-consuming and often thankless job to volunteer in a board position.  It’s clear that CJ carries the important traits character traits one needs to be successful in the business development role.  “I want to make a difference.  I also want to bring my leadership beliefs, work ethic and knowledge to a larger leadership role within NAGAAA,” said Kelly.

As for what lies ahead for NAGAAA, Kelly thinks the future is pretty bright.  “NAGAAA is important because it gives us a voice in the diversity arena, a voice in the gay community and a voice in sports. We don’t just play softball. We create a safe space where gay athletes of all levels can grow as athletes, as gay men and women and as community volunteers and leaders. NAGAAA may be the sport of softball, but to all of inside the walls of NAGAAA it is so much more…it’s all about the friendships we make, the coming out stories we tell, the memories we hold on to and the futures we build together,” Kelly stated.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.  NAGAAA has some new blood on the board and they bring with them a level of qualifications and experience that we haven’t quite seen before.  That means better, more committed people working on behalf of the NAGAAA international membership.  The future looks bright indeed, in part to Catherine Kelly’s development expertise working for NAGAAA.

When you see sponsor logos and partnerships this week at the Gay Softball World Series in Austin, Texas, know that you have NAGAAA board members working tirelessly to provide a foundation and solvency for this organization to thrive for years to come.

*Thank you to Catherine Kelly, NAGAAA Business Development Coordinator for her help with this blog post.*

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Riddle Settling Into New Role As NAGAAA Assistant Commissioner

It’s now down to an hourly countdown until the 2016 GSWS kicks off in Austin, Texas and with all of the changes that were made at the NAGAAA Winter Meetings in January sometimes NAGAAA Executive Board elections can get lost in the shuffle.

In Austin this past January, Kevin Riddle of Nashville won the election to become NAGAAA’s next Assistant Commissioner.  He takes over for Keith Speers after Speers carried out the remainder of James Willamson’s term as Assistant Commissioner.  However, the position that Riddle is taking over isn’t exactly the same position anymore.  The NAGAAA voting delegation split off the role of Athletics Director for the GSWS itself from the duties of the Assistant Commissioner.  The Assistant Commissioner now appoints an Athletics Director for the GSWS and NAGAAA Cup and will do so for the foreseeable future.  This will be the first World Series under this new setup for the Assistant Commissioner position.

While it might not be the same position anymore, Kevin Riddle is excited to serve on the NAGAAA Executive Board and there is no doubt that he is clear on what his mission is in this role.  “I ran for this position to continue the movement for positive change within our organization and to help ensure that all of our members have a safe, fun and fair place to play,” said Riddle.  A major part of the Assistant Commissioner’s role is to ensure “fair play” and that can entail looking at player ratings, ratings questions and equipment issues as well.

It’s clear that Riddle has a passion for NAGAAA and it shows through his years of dedication at the local level in Nashville.  “I’ve been involved with my local league in Nashville since 2005.  I was one of the founders of the new league in Nashville that was started in 2007,” said the former MNSA Commissioner.  Riddle’s passion for softball extends beyond Nashville and with that comes a deep sense of gratitude for what NAGAAA means to him and to thousands of other players across North America.  “Without NAGAAA softball, I don’t know where I’d be today.  I’ve met folks from all over the US and Canada and I’ve heard their stories.  I love NAGAAA softball,” stated Riddle.

Riddle is confident that the GSWS is in good hands with this year’s Athletics Director not only for the GSWS, but for the NAGAAA Cup as well in Shane Yocom.  Riddle praised Yocom for his softball credentials and tournament planning acumen.  “Shane is the current commissioner of the Metro Nashville Softball Association.  He’s served previously as Assistant Commissioner in the league.  He has served as a player and coach for over 15 years.  Shane is very knowledgeable about the game.  He is very strong analytically and is a logistics manager professionally.  He’s a great asset to  NAGAAA,” lauded Riddle.

Each World Series there are always those little tweaks and changes that might not seem like much, but can make a big difference.  Riddle was quick to point those out when we spoke with him.  “Hopefully managers are aware of the two big changes.  Beginning this year at the GSWS, batters will come to the plate with a 1-1 count.  It has been 0-0 historically.  Also new this year, courtesy runners are allowed and that runner can be anyone in the line up, including subs,” Riddle said.

NAGAAA has someone in the Assistant Commissioner role that understands the value this organization has to its membership and the positive role it can play in promoting self-confidence, self-awareness and self-respect while at the same time teaching the same important lessons that team sports have taught for centuries.  These lessons of compromise, teamwork and networking bleed over to help people in their personal and professional lives.  “NAGAAA is important because it’s an athletic outlet for our community and it’s our safe haven.  NAGAAA is important because it reminds us that we’re not alone.  We are FAMILY and unfortunately for so many, we’re the only family we have,” said Riddle.

Riddle enters into his first GSWS as Assistant Commissioner in the GSWS’ 40th year and the future looks bright for NAGAAA with him in this position.

*The Diamond Dish would like to thank Kevin Riddle, NAGAAA Assistant Commissioner for his assistance with this blog post.*

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The GSWS Turns 40 This August In Austin


In just about three weeks time, the entire NAGAAA softball community will gather for it’s annual “family reunion” so to speak.  Only this time, it’s not just any tournament.  The 2016 edition of the Gay Softball World Series will be the organization’s 40th annual tournament and it could be the largest tournament of all time with the possibility of pushing the 200 team mark across all divisions of play.

How fitting is it that Austin, Texas and the folks at Softball Austin are hosting this 40th annual GSWS?  It’s hard to think of a better way for NAGAAA to show how far its come and how much its grown in these past 40 years than to have a member city that was started from scratch just 12 years ago hosting this milestone tournament.

Last year, the Columbus GSWS Committee truly took the player and fan experience to another level following Dallas’ raising of the bar in 2014.  This year, the Austin Committee has slimmed the event schedule down to focus on the attention to detail elements of the events that are being hosted.  The hope is to provide a better, more efficient and intimate atmosphere at all events.

Rich Segal is the Executive Director of the 2016 Austin GSWS Host Committee and he talked about the nerve racking and pain staking process it is to put on this event.  “When you are putting on an event of this magnitude, when you know there are so many people counting on you to do your part to make it work, there is going to be some frayed nerves,” said Segal.

The reality is that he’s right and in this age of social media and blogs (like this one), small problems can balloon into large ones in the time it takes to tweet or post a status update.  One thing is for sure, the Austin Host Committee has a solid lineup of events for the masses this August.

The first of those events will be the GSWS Opening Ceremonies presented by Oilcan Harry’s, which is being held at the beautiful Long Center for the Performing Arts.  There will be plenty of fun and entertainment at the introductory event to the 2016 GSWS and will feature a performance by veteran nightlife singer/songwriter, Kristine W with DJ Licious.  The fun starts at 7 pm and among many other presentations and welcomes, there will be a tribute to the Orlando victims and their families.

A time honored tradition at the GSWS is the “parade of flags”, which was last done traditionally at the Washington, DC Series in 2013.  Dallas had each of their teams and host committee members welcome cities and teams to its city in 2014 and Columbus did a digital version of the parade of flags on big screens at the event last year.  “We are returning the Parade of Flags this year.  However, we won’t be doing it alphabetically as in the past,” said Rich Segal.  Something as big as the 40th GSWS deserves something unique and luckily Rich and his committee have come up with one of those quirks right of the bat during the week.  “We will be announcing the cities in reverse order of when they joined NAGAAA.  NAGAAA’s 40th Anniversary Committee has been working to make sure we get the order correct,” Segal added.

The fun and excitement of Monday night’s opening festivities will lead into what is undoubtedly one of the most underrated events of the entire GSWS week, the NAGAAA Hall of Fame Banquet presented by Prudential.  This event makes its debut on the Tuesday night schedule at the World Series after suffering through many years later in the week.  Having the event later in the week created problems for some attendees and folks that might have wanted to attend, but couldn’t due to playing in double elimination games later in the evening on Thursday.  Inductees include Jim Imgrund and David Dennistoun from the Twin Cities, Jim “Pearl” Bailey from Birmingham and Mona Garcia from Milwaukee.  The Hall of Fame Banquet is history on its own, but there is additional history being made by two of this year’s inductees.  Jim “Pearl” Bailey is the first NAGAAA Hall of Fame inductee in the history of the New South Softball League and Birmingham.  Mona Garcia, the current NAGAAA Executive Assistant will be the first ever straight woman inducted into the Hall of Fame.  It will be a memorable and teary eyed night at the Bullock Texas State History Museum on night two of GSWS week.  And…we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the HOF after party at Rain on 4th after the ceremonies.

Wednesday night has been designated as charity and fundraising night as there will be a Casino Night at the Ironwood Event Space in Austin.  The event will raise money for the Octopus Club, which helps individuals in Austin living with HIV/AIDS.  The games begin at 7 pm and tickets are $40. The ticket cost includes drinks during the event.  A worthy cause and a great event idea should combine to net lots of money for folks that need help in the Austin area.

The first day of double elimination games at the fields is Thursday and the first official GSWS after party of the week will be held at the Iron Bear in downtown Austin.  The Iron Bear is a longtime Softball Austin partner and if you get in early to the tournament on Sunday, don’t miss making an appearance for their Sunday night karaoke.  The second official GSWS after party will occur after the games end on Friday evening at Rain on 4th.  The downtown Austin dance club will offer a block party atmosphere, great music, stiff drinks and a lot of fun.

On Saturday, the awards ceremony will occur after all championship games are completed at the main field complex, Krieg Softball Complex.  Once all of the awards are handed out and the teams have time to head back to the hotel, it’s then time to head out into the streets for the Closing Block Party.  The block party will be held off 4th Street close to several LGBT nightclubs and bars and the event will be headlined by DJ Dave Aude.

As the event gets closer and closer, the Diamond Dish will begin ramping up its coverage of the 2016 GSWS and we take our hats off to the Austin Host Committee for pulling together what looks to be an awesome week of fun and excitement for the NAGAAA softball community.  “When August 22nd gets here and people start to leave Austin we will know that we put on as good a tournament for NAGAAA as we could, stated Rich Segal, Austin Host Committee Director.

We are just about three weeks away from the most important and most competitive tournament each year.  The 40th Annual NAGAAA Gay Softball World Series is almost here and Austin is ready for you to be a part of it all, “Deep In The Heart” of Texas.

*The Diamond Dish would like to thank Rich Segal, Softball Austin Open Assistant Commissioner and Austin World Series Host Committee Executive Director for his assistance with this post.*


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