Raising The Bar: Dallas Series 2014 Wrap Up
It’s been roughly three months since the finishing touches were put on Dallas Series 2014, but the awesome competition, great memories and the unbelievable presentation of the Series by the Dallas host committee is still fresh in our minds.
All told, 167 teams competed over the course of the last full week in September to decide championships in five divisions and while the action on the field was impressive, the organization and presentation of the tournament week itself was a sight to behold. There were a lot of rumors and conjecture leading up to Dallas Series 2014 about what the host committee in Dallas had in store for its guests. From the size of the budget to debuting new events, the expectation level was rather high for this Series before anyone even got into Dallas to experience it play out.
With a sort of ‘expect to be impressed’ mind-frame I, along with nearly 4,000 other players and team supporters couldn’t have been more impressed with how the event was put on, from the small details, to the planning, to the support throughout the week. The host committee in Dallas has a lot to be proud of in regard to their entire plan being executed almost flawlessly, but I feel that the committee overachieved in particular with making the event seem big, important, worthwhile and in some instances larger than life. When a host committee takes the time to pump up certain events, create championship atmospheres and take fun to a whole new level like this group did, it elevates everyone’s spirits and their adrenaline to compete at the highest level possible.
Let’s start at the beginning, with a stunning Opening Ceremonies at the gorgeous Annette Strauss Artist Square in downtown Dallas. A fun appearance was made by WFAA-TV Sports Director Dale Hansen who made some very stirring comments in welcoming everyone to Texas and to the tournament.
See the video of his remarks here:
Plenty of bartenders and points of sale for alcohol were available only adding to the fun while participants traded jerseys, old friends reunited and new friends were made. Ryan Holdhusen, Dallas Series 2014 Vice President headed up the Opening Ceremonies event and is obviously proud of the welcoming show that it was. “I wanted the right venue, the right service level, the right ‘wow’ factor to really kick off the week in a very memorable way. We were confident and overall the opening ceremony received very positive feedback, which made me feel unbelievably wonderful,” said Holdhusen. The Opening Ceremonies also featured a great welcoming video from the Dallas based teams to all of the cities represented at the GSWS.
You can see the welcoming video here:
It was clear from the start that the organizers of Dallas Series 2014 were ready and prepared with shuttle buses going to the Cedar Springs bar district and to the hotels from the Opening Ceremonies too.
Next, let’s talk hotels. I had the good fortune of staying at both hotels over the course of my 10 day stay in Dallas and the Hilton Anatole was truly an impressive complex. The hotel had a great reputation before this event, but with several bars and restaurants located in the hotel, a friendly staff, spacious rooms and a picturesque pool and grounds this property was a great choice to be the main host hotel. The major concern and criticism I have in regard to the host hotels is the massive drop off that occurred when going from the Hilton Anatole to the Crowne Plaza. I think one could poll most tournament participants that stayed at the Crowne Plaza and the majority of folks looking back on it would tell you they would have gladly paid the $25 more per night and stayed at the Anatole. I won’t belabor the point, but I will say that someone trying to compare the two shouldn’t waste their time because the two hotels are apples and oranges in nearly every way.
How about the field complexes? Dallas Series 2014 used three complexes for NAGAAA to let the tournament play out on over the course of the week. The Mike Lewis Softball Complex in Grand Prairie, Texas featured games on its four fields and for the most part received great reviews from tournament participants. The only criticism that I found and had been told about at Mike Lewis were some rather long lines at concessions for food and beer from time to time, mostly during afternoon games. Softball World in Euless, Texas also hosted games throughout the week and the complex certainly impressed with its close confines making it easy to see all games in progress at once along with its huge scoreboards making it easy to keep up on game scores. Another plus at Softball World was the prevalence of shaded areas and shaded seating making it easy to get out of the hot Texas sun. Finally, the biggest complex with 8 fields, Kiest Park was also the featured complex where the first ever Friday night winner’s bracket games were played and Championship Saturday games were played. Kiest was well laid out and I thought that the host committee did a good job of incorporating food trucks into Kiest to help fill the obvious concessions void that would have been there. The back half of the complex, fields 5-8 did feel a little disconnected from the main fields 1-4, but food trucks and temporary bathroom facilities saved the day. A point of emphasis for the hosts was to have scoreboards at every field at every complex and they made good on that promise. I personally witnessed a crew repairing a non-functional scoreboard at Kiest while a Wednesday morning pool play game was in progress. That philosophy didn’t just extend to scoreboards, but to the complexes themselves. “We wanted the experience for players and fans to be the same at every complex they went to,” said Dallas Series 2014 President Matt Miller. “It was important to us that the same amenities were available to each person throughout the week no matter where they were.”
The GSWS Night at Globe Life Park was very well received with many tickets being sold for the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros game on Tuesday night. In addition to the baseball game outing a great crowd was on hand for the 2014 Miss GSWS Pageant at JR’s Bar & Grill on Tuesday night with the winner taking home $500 a crown and the title of Miss GSWS 2014.
While Tuesday’s events were well planned and well received, the 2014 GSWS Talent Show was truly a special evening. The Rose Room at the popular nightclub S4 was the perfect setting for everyone to be entertained and to raise money for the Legacy Counseling Center of Dallas. The charity provides mental health care, substance abuse treatment and housing services to individuals impacted by HIV/AIDS in North Texas. The night was hosted by the always shocking, outrageous and a little unseemly Selma Sue, but the highlight of the evening was a two number performance by RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5 contestant Alyssa Edwards and her Drag Race sister Laganja Estranja. The winner took home $1,000 cash and most importantly the event raised $11,000 for Legacy Counseling Center.
Thursday evening was jam-packed with events too with it being the designated team dinner night and sponsor bar night. The marquee event of the night was the Hall of Fame Reception & Dinner at the Belo Mansion. It was an emotional and elegant evening as Brian Reinkober (Milwaukee), Johnny Russell (Dallas), Greg Smith (Dallas), Marc Tripplet (Long Beach), Brad Mayeux (Boston), Gerre Reynolds (Tampa), Johnny Johnson (Houston), Jerry Fontes (Phoenix), Emerson Ross (Atlanta), Desmond Fletcher (Los Angeles) and Ken Scearce (Los Angeles) were inducted as the NAGAAA Hall of Fame Class of 2014. I cannot tell everyone enough how inspiring the Hall of Fame Ceremony is. I strongly urge anyone that has not been before to make sure to mark it on your calendar while in Columbus in 2015. It is important for everyone in the gay softball community to understand who paved the way in growing the sport locally and nationally into what we know it as today.
Friday’s Championship Eve Bash at Woody’s was a new event at the Gay Softball World Series and it was yet another way that the host committee created a championship atmosphere in building toward Championship Saturday games. Teams that were slated to play on Saturday were treated to free beverages and massages with the event sponsored by Red Bull. After all the championship games were completed on Saturday it was time for the Championship Celebration Block Party on Cedar Springs Road. The event was very well attended with the majority of the 4 block area squeezed in shoulder to shoulder as the crowd was treated to live singer and Dolly Parton impersonator Sandy Anderson and to the always fabulous Deborah Cox. Throw in a private escort from the hotel right to the stage for division champions and trophy presentations and it made for a night that nobody could forget. The event was sponsored by the Dallas Tavern Guild and the Cedar Springs Merchant Association.
Another area where the Dallas Series 2014 host committee did a great job was in using social media leading up to the event and during the event. A great idea that should be copied and used moving forward by other host committees was the process of obtaining team photos of qualifying teams in each city and as they qualified the team photo was posted to the Dallas Series 2014 Facebook page. This process drove traffic to the event’s Facebook page and stoked the discussion and anticipation for the tournament months before anyone arrived in Dallas.
Now, we all know with an event of this size there are two things you can most likely count on. 1) You need help for it to run smoothly, more specifically, you need volunteers and 2) Nothing will go exactly according to plan. With that being said, nearly 350 volunteers were utilized to work with participants and behind the scenes to make sure everyone was taken care of at a high level. “Our volunteers really blew me out of the water. I personally witnessed our volunteers going out of their way to show the kind of hospitality that we know Dallas to have,” said Ryan Holdhusen, Dallas Series 2014 Vice President. In regard to not everything going according to plan Matt Miller, President of Dallas Series 2014 and Ryan Holdhusen, Vice President of Dallas Series 2014 were asked if there was anything that didn’t quite work out?
Matt Miller, President Dallas Series 2014
Generally speaking there was nothing major that didn’t go to plan. There were two or three issues that we had planned for and thought that we had worked out with the City of Dallas. The sprinklers being on and temporarily flooding a field at Kiest Park was frustrating and there were a few issues with the City of Dallas and the food trucks we had at the fields, but other than that it was relatively smooth.
Ryan Holdhusen, Vice President Dallas Series 2014
As cliché as it may sound, there is very little I would have done differently, or that didn’t come off as I saw it happening in my head. Of course there were some small things, as there always are, but I don’t think they were really noticeable to our guests. An unexpected glare from a neighboring building washing out our screen during the first part of the Opening Ceremonies really was a big disappointment to me. Eventually the sun went down and the screen was visible.
Overall, to say that Dallas Series 2014 was a rousing success would be a massive understatement and one thing is for sure, the host committee knows that they hit a grand slam with their execution of the plan they envisioned. “I hand-picked my committee. The seven individuals that started it together many, many months ago also finished it together. Being on this committee is a big job with a lot of pressure and it is very time-consuming. For not one person to drop out or take a step back was amazing,” said President Matt Miller.
Dallas Series 2014 surpassed the lofty expectations that the gay softball community had for it and collectively the host committee in Dallas truly raised the bar and took what a Gay Softball World Series is to the next level. We all take our ball caps off to Matt Miller, Ryan Holdhusen, the entire Dallas Series 2014 host committee, the host city teams, business owners, sponsors and volunteers that made this Series the best to date and we are looking forward to what Columbus has in store for us all in August 2015.
The Diamond Dish would like to extend well wishes to all of our readers during this holiday season. We wish you health and happiness and trophies in 2015!
*Thank you to Matt Miller, Dallas Series 2014 President and Ryan Holdhusen, Dallas Series 2014 Vice President for their help with this post.*