Toronto’s CGSL: World Class Softball, World Class City
It’s time for a history lesson. It will be brief we promise.
NAGAAA is an international organization and while there are 42 leagues in the United States there are still 3 leagues North of the border in neighboring Canada that are just as important, but sometimes fall through the cracks. However, at least one of those three often forgotten about leagues plays a crucial role in NAGAAA’s past, present and future.
Did you know that Toronto was one of the five founding member cities of NAGAAA? Did you know that Toronto has hosted the World Series twice, in 1981 and 2000? Did you know that Toronto has had 10 of its members inducted into the NAGAAA Hall of Fame? That’s good for a 4th place tie with Boston for NAGAAA member cities with the most Hall of Famers and that’s a pretty big number overall considering there are only 137 Hall of Fame members all-time. The Cabbagetown Group Softball League out of Toronto is critical to the history and fabric of NAGAAA’s international history and reputation. Although the statistics are just the tip of the iceberg as to why.
The CGSL was founded in 1975 and joined NAGAAA in 1978. For all you math majors out there that means the Toronto based league enjoyed its 40th year of providing a place for people from all walks of life, most notably its LGBT community to play the game they love. One of the oldest leagues in NAGAAA has an experienced commissioner at its helm. John Hunking is in his 10th year as the CGSL commissioner and he’s excited for what the future holds as it relates to the CGSL’s role and position within the NAGAAA structure.
“I started playing in the league in 1997 and I’ve been on the Board since 2002,” said Hunking. Serving in multiple league administrative positions over the years, Hunking also plays and manages in the league. “I play and co-manage my team the Storm in the C division. I was previously just a player and volunteered for league events. Then I became Assistant Commissioner for 2 years and this is my 10th as commissioner,” he said.
The 40th anniversary season of the CGSL boasts a league membership of 20 teams, 10 in the C division and 10 in the D division. With the city’s weather challenges the regular season doesn’t begin until the first weekend in May and goes on through September to make sure the league maximizes the time it has outside before harsh weather takes over for the Fall/Winter months. It’s a growing concern of many leagues and members in the extreme Northern portions of the United States and Canada that they are at a disadvantage in relation to cities on the West Coast, South and Southeastern United States due to the Northern cities inability to play almost year round.
Hunking agrees, but feels that Toronto’s time for success at the World Series is coming soon. “Over the past few years Toronto has improved its standing at the GSWS. Toronto Storm finished 17th in Chicago and the Swallows finished 9th in Washington, D.C.,” added Hunking. The last and only time a Toronto team won a GSWS was back in 1997 when the Toronto Crew took a C division trophy back to Canada. In fact, the Northern weather disadvantage argument holds serve in all-time championships won too. Out of 101 total championships awarded since 1977 at the GSWS, that Toronto Crew team in 1997 is still the only Canadian team to ever win a GSWS in any division.
The major goal that Toronto’s commissioner spoke about was making sure that the league was open to everyone and it has been for 40 years and counting. The CGSL mission statement reads as, “A safe environment for the LGBT community and friends of the LGBT community to play sport without prejudice, malice or persecution.” That mission statement is very simply what Toronto’s gay softball league is about and in turn Toronto is what NAGAAA is about, an international presence and force to further promote gay athletics with an emphasis on slow pitch softball.
Toronto used to host a weekend tournament centered around the Canada Day (July 1st) holiday called the Canada Cup. The tournament has been suspended, but not indefinitely. In fact, the commissioner told the DD they’re not only ready to resurrect the Canada Cup, but he thinks it’s Toronto’s time to host another GSWS. “We hope to bid for a World Series within the next couple of years,” said Hunking.
This Northern giant of a NAGAAA member city looks to be poised to move back into the forefront of the NAGAAA landscape soon and that kind of international progress can only help the sport of gay softball and the plight of gay athletics in the future.
CABBAGETOWN GROUP SOFTBALL LEAGUE – BY THE NUMBERS:
League Founded: 1975
Joined NAGAAA: 1978
Membership: C Division (10), D Division (10)
Regular Season: May 4th – September 28th
Venue for League: McCleary Park
Best Team Finish @ GSWS: Toronto Crew, Champions C Division – 1997 in San Diego
Season Cost Per Team: $155 CA per player
League Sponsors: Downtown Courtyard by Marriott, Xtra
Host Tournament: Canada Cup
League Website: http://www.cgslsoftball.com
*Thank you to John Hunking, CGSL commissioner for his help with this monthly league spotlight article.*