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.*