Knoxville Women Make History at Dallas Series 2014
Dallas Series 2014 will be known for what a relatively smooth week it was and the great planning that went into what was undoubtedly one of the bets GSWS events in history, but another historically significant event took place within the D Division in Dallas too.
The women’s division split from the NAGAAA structure in 2007 and the Amateur Sports Alliance of North America (ASANA) was created strictly for women. There had not been a team competing at the Gay Softball World Series comprised completely of women in any capacity since that restructuring. Furthermore, according to common knowledge within the gay softball community there had never been a team completely composed of women play in the Open Division at World Series since the tournament began in 1977.
Enter the Knoxville Fuzion to Dallas Series 2014. The Fuzion, an all women’s team from Knoxville, Tennessee qualified for the GSWS out of the K-Town Softball League as one of that league’s two D Division GSWS representatives along with the Knoxville Cyclones. The Fuzion finished tied for 3rd place in their hometown league’s D Division and the team had good showings at several NAGAAA sanctioned tournaments prior to the World Series in 2014.
The NAGAAA website tells the tale about how the organization values what being an “Open” Division means to its membership. The words “Open Division” are listed below the logo on the front page of the website, which should be another reminder that everyone is welcome within the rules set by the instruments of governance, women are no exception.
Brandi Crass is a K-Town Softball League Executive Board member and the manager of the Knoxville Fuzion. “Our team has been a member of K-Town for nearly 7 years. Although we played in the open division in the fall league, this past Spring was our first season to compete for a NAGAAA World Series bid. We feel our league has always been supportive of Fuzion,” said Crass.
After a tough regular season schedule in Knoxville and some tournament play throughout the year, Fuzion was ready to compete at the GSWS. The Fuzion’s pool play grouping was one of the most competitive in the entire D Division tournament, but after dropping its first two games of pool play the ladies from Knoxville were able to get past the Chicago Jox 13-7 to secure their first ever World Series win as a team. Fuzion knew they could compete at an international tournament, but getting to the World Series wasn’t a team goal initially. “In all honesty, winning the bid to World Series was the furthest thing from our minds. We entered the open division to help better our level of play by competing with different teams than we were accustomed to playing in the women’s division,” added Crass.
NAGAAA is truly one big family and while there are disagreements and competing points of view from time to time, everyone is accepted for who they are and for their unique talents that they bring to the sport. Crass told us that this World Series was no different. “While at the World Series we realized we were a bit of a buzz when many of the teams came to our games to show support for our ladies. In turn, we stood by their sidelines too, cheering them on. We were blessed with the support of our local teams who came to cheer us when scheduling would permit,” Crass said.
One thing that was apparent from Fuzion’s time at World Series was a general inability by the team to generate enough runs to take their success to the next level. Teams can go cold offensively, we’ve all seen it happen at different tournaments, but Crass was quick to point out that there were adjustments her team had to make. “Our players are very familiar with ASA, USSSA, NSA and ISA guidelines due to our tournament travels. With that said, we struggled a bit with the twelve-foot pitch allowance. Typically we play with a ten foot arc requirement during league. I hope to help change that requirement in our league to better prepare our teams that travel to future World Series events,” Crass added.
There has been talk for years about NAGAAA bringing a women’s division back into the
fold, however no progress of note has been made on the topic. For opponents of a NAGAAA women’s division, the Knoxville Fuzion went a long way toward making their case. If the Open Division is truly “open” and an entire team of women can play in the open division, then is a women’s division necessary in NAGAAA? Folks that are critical of that line of thinking surely can’t use a lack of competitiveness as their argument after the showing these ladies from Tennessee made at Dallas Series 2014.
Regardless of whether a women’s division being added by NAGAAA is imminent or not the Knoxville Fuzion manager wants to savor her team’s place in history while looking ahead to the future. “Everytime we step on the field, our intention is to win. If those wins lead us to the 2015 World Series we would gladly consider a trip to Columbus. We are grateful to the NAGAAA staff and Dallas Board Members for their hard work and dedication to put on this event. It is something we will always remember together,” stated Crass.
We’ll be keeping an eye on Coach Crass and her ladies in Knoxville this season. The Fuzion’s win/loss record at World Series couldn’t be less important, but what the Fuzion represented at the Series couldn’t be more important. This group from Knoxville proved that NAGAAA is a place for everyone, gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, men…..and women.
*The Diamond Dish would like to thank K-Town Softball League NAGAAA Delegate, Tonya Vaughn and K-Town Softball Executive Board Member and Knoxville Fuzion manager, Brandi Crass for their help with this article.*