Days of Our Recreational Past

The evolution of the NAGAAA divisional structure is fairly well-known and with that comes the question of whether certain divisions are more recreational in nature than others.  While NAGAAA has adjusted and added divisions over the course of its existence, one can argue that all of those changes and adjustments were ultimately at the behest of NAGAAA’s number one priority, the Gay Softball World Series and not necessarily the player experience within member cities.

Are any NAGAAA divisions truly “recreational”?

The answer is no.

The moment that a person’s team participates in a division within a NAGAAA member organization that sends it’s best teams to the Gay Softball World Series every year…you’re no longer a recreational team (even if you think you are).  You now just fall into a team that isn’t as good or skilled as other teams within your competitive division.  Now, it was mentioned earlier in this post about  NAGAAA emphasizing the GSWS.  To be fair, that’s the whole ball game for NAGAAA.  Everything revolves around the GSWS, just read the NAGAAA Instruments of Governance if you’re not sure.

Let’s break it down shall we?  We’re not talking about the true definition of recreational meaning something you do for fun in your spare time.  We’re talking about the term recreational within the softball community.  A word meaning “non-competitive” or something to the effect of a team being “less serious”.

What happened to recreational softball?  Quite simply, it has died a slow death as the GSWS has grown stronger and stronger.  The GSWS has grown into this monstrosity of competition.  It’s billed by NAGAAA as the best of the best from each member city in the country.  You’ve seen the looks on people’s faces when they find out your city didn’t send a team to the GSWS (insert eye roll/side eye here).

It may be time once again for NAGAAA to push forward in the evolution of the divisional structure and as luck would have it, we’ve got an idea.

NAGAAA Divisional Structure Timeline

  • 1977 – 1st NAGAAA Gay Softball World Series in San Francisco – No Divisions
  • 1988 –  12th NAGAAA GSWS – 1st GSWS with an Open & Recreational Division
  • 1992 – 16th NAGAAA GSWS – 1st GSWS with Lettered Divisions (A, B, C)
  • 2002 – 26th NAGAAA GSWS – 1st GSWS for the D Division
  • 2011 – 35th NAGAAA GSWS – Master’s Division competes for the 1st time
  • 2016 – NAGAAA Delegation votes to split  Master’s Division into 2 sub-divisions


First, for this idea to work we have to scrap the notion that we currently have a recreational division.  Now, for the A & B division players out there, and probably some C division players too, there will be a habit to say that the D division is recreational.  And….you would be wrong.

As one NAGAAA delegate told us while researching for this post, “I was at the first D division games at the 2002 GSWS and they cared more about how they looked and how good their cheers were, than how they played.  That’s not the case anymore.”  To say that the D division has changed over the years would be an understatement and it’s not just that one division.  One can see a higher level of competition across the board in each division, a larger appetite for victory and a want to qualify and win the GSWS.  The point being that a higher level of competitiveness is one of the byproducts of putting so much emphasis on the GSWS.

How do we fix this issue?  It’s not a matter of fixing.  It’s a matter of NAGAAA and it’s member organizations adapting to what has become the norm.  The current system of emphasizing the GSWS and qualifying for it has created what we have now.  It would be a huge step in the right direction to make divisional adjustments to catch up with the changing face of our competition landscape.

First, a baseline recreational division could be made up of players rated up to 8 within the current NAGAAA player rating guidelines.  Why 8?  Why not 7 or 9?  Both are fair questions, but we need to look at if a player performed just under an average skill level at every rating category (throwing, fielding, base running, hitting) that person could stand to get 2 questions in each category, which equals a player rating of 8.

One thing that NAGAAA has not done the best job of in the past is in showing the ability to separate skill level from competitive nature.  It seems that every divisional ratings threshold change, player rating change or ratings question change fails to separate the two, but that is nothing new.  The old adage that “knowledge is power” should factor into the equation when setting up player rating questions.  It’s not accurate to say that a person with the skills to be rated at a 9 has a below average or average knowledge of the game, rules or strategy.

Just like it is currently, there is nothing stopping a player that would be rated 8 in this pipe dream mythical system from playing in a competitive division.  It would be no different than if a C rated player wanted to play for a team in the B division.  That’s a manager’s decision and always has been.

So, if we now have a baseline recreational division there has to be one stipulation.  By playing in a member city’s recreational division, the team automatically knows that it will not qualify for the GSWS.  As we discussed earlier, recreational within the softball community would lend itself to not being as serious about qualifying for the GSWS.  Therefore, there would be no automatic bids to the GSWS for winning the division or placing in a certain part of the standings.  Would a trophy be awarded?  I’m sure one would be and why not?  If a team in the recreational division wins the division they should be rewarded, just not with a bid to the most competitive and sought after tournament of the year.

Now to move on to the current divisional structure that we have now.  The D division would change to players rated 9, 10 & 11.  The C Division would keep the same upper threshold with players rated 12, 13 & 14.  The A & B divisions stay the same.

It’s a shift, but not a big shift and it doesn’t balloon the amount of teams that attend the GSWS.  However, let’s be clear, if your event is popular and it is THE most important tournament of the year for so many teams the event is going to grow and it has by roughly 4 to 6% annually for the last 7 years.

Could this work?  Almost anything can work if there is support and dedication to a cause to make it work.  Several leagues around North America have adopted recreational divisions in different forms over the past several years.  The change is for NAGAAA to recognize a recreational division and not have that division factor into the GSWS.


“A Path Forward”

Rec Division –   No player rated above an 8.  No team rated over 75. *Doesn’t qualify for GSWS*

D Division –   No player rated above an 11.  No team rated over 105.

C Division –   No player rated above a 14.  No team rated over 135.

B Division – No player rated above a 19. No team rated over 175

A Division – No team rated over 270.  No teams rated lower than 170.

One thing is for sure.  We can change player rating thresholds and tweak the wording of questions, but it is all smoke mirrors in the grand scheme of things.  The above restructuring does not hurt the GSWS and it’s not a huge shift in the overall divisional structure.  However, what the above idea most definitely is, is a way that we can address the overwhelming gap between recreational teams and competitive teams in our member city leagues thereby stopping the slide of “player displacement” that we are beginning to see.  Let’s do right by all of our players, not just the higher skilled players.  Member cities and their members deserve to have a ratings structure that benefits everyone and that still keeps the integrity of the game intact.

*The Diamond Dish is a blog site devoted to amateur slow pitch softball across North America.  This site nor the posts on it are a reflection of the views of NAGAAA or its members.*


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2016 NAGAAA Winter Meetings: Wrap Up


The Diamond Dish would like to welcome you to the start of our ongoing coverage of the 2016 calendar year of softball.  We are so grateful for your readership and support as we continue to fly the banner as an independent voice within the landscape of the sport we all love to play, watch and follow.

The 2016 NAGAAA Winter Meetings just wrapped up this past weekend at the gorgeous, eye-poppingly lavish, five-star host hotel for the 2016 GSWS, the JW Marriott in Downtown Austin, Texas.  Trust us when we say…you are going to want to loosen the purse strings and stay at this hotel in August while at the World Series.  You will not regret it.  Here’s a highlighted overview of the happenings at this year’s Winter Meetings.

The meetings took up some important topics with several motions by the international delegation coming up for a vote.  In this post, the highlights of the meetings will be listed and discussed, but out of all of the proposals that were adopted either for this year or for the 2017 season, one proposal that was adopted truly stands out above the rest.


Beginning this season at the NAGAAA Cup in Dallas, Texas and at the 40th Annual GSWS in Austin, Texas teams will be allowed to use one courtesy runner per inning.  Now, some of you reading that might say, why is adding the use of a courtesy runner that important?

Okay, maybe the idea of using a courtesy runner is not itself that important, but how this new rule has been implemented certainly is.  NAGAAA uses ASA rules and this new provision follows true ASA rules regarding using courtesy runners.  At NAGAAA’s big two tournaments this year, not only will a team be able to use a courtesy runner once per inning, but that courtesy runner can be anyone on the roster.  That’s right folks, any person on the roster, NOT the last out.

This could literally be a game changer for teams at the NAGAAA Cup and the GSWS.  Adopting the courtesy runner provision comes on the heels of the international voting delegation deciding to implement a 1-1 count for this year’s NAGAAA Cup and GSWS at the last set of meetings in 2015.

The game of slow pitch softball is an offensive game by nature.  The softball comes across the plate slower making it easier to hit, which is why there are certain bat restrictions and ball core restrictions to try and slow the speed and velocity of those hits that come easier due to the slow nature of the pitch.  With all that being said, both of these changes, the courtesy runner change and the move away from a 0-0 count to a 1-1 count encourage offense in an already offensive game.  Look for higher scores and possibly more innings being played within time limits at the NAGAAA Cup and GSWS this year as a result of these changes.


Another item taken up by the delegation was brought forward by the folks voting from Orlando, Florida.  While the Orlando delegation expressed concern regarding the speed components and if those are really fair or not, the change that ultimately passed to be implemented at this year’s NAGAAA Cup and GSWS was the deletion of the “using of a base coach” criteria in the new base running ratings questions.

As you may have read in the Diamond Dish’s previous post wrapping up the 2015 NAGAAA Summer Meetings, a system of “Speed + 1” was instituted for 2016.  Now, before those changes take effect at either the NAGAAA Cup or the GSWS they’ve changed.  With the base coach criteria out of the picture, players will be judged on their speed along with one of two other criteria.  This will not change much and may actually serve to hurt lower division players more in regard to raising their ratings unnecessarily.  Look for the actual speed designations themselves to be up for debate at the Summer Meetings this August after leagues across North America have had a chance to see how the changes effect each league.


Something that none of us see these days, except maybe at the gas pump, are prices going down.  The teams participating at this year’s GSWS will see their team fees to enter the tournament go down by $50 from $550 to $500.  Many leagues pay these fees for the teams that qualify, but regardless of who is writing the check there will be less cost associated to participate in the most anticipated tournament of the year.


Tampa bid unsuccessfully for the 2017 GSWS, losing the bid to a very prepared and professional Portland, Oregon bid committee.  The Executive Board will vet Tampa’s bid to host the 2018 GSWS and with no other cities applying to bid, it looks like Tampa will be hosting pending NAGAAA Executive Board and delegation approval at the 2016 Summer Meetings.  With exciting facilities being built or being discussed to be built in places like Atlanta and Houston among others, it will be interesting to see who will throw their name in the hat for the 2019 GSWS at the 2017 Winter Meetings in Portland.


While it hasn’t been unusual over the past few years to see a non-NAGAAA city attend the meetings to explore joining the organization, the delegation from Des Moines, Iowa looks like the most promising city in the past several years to be able to stick to a path to NAGAAA membership.  The Pride Sports League of Central Iowa nearly amassed six teams for its most recent Fall league and Des Moines has been sending a team to several regional weekend tournaments over the past two years.  As the profile of NAGAAA continues to grow and as we all continue to tell the story of this very special organization, growth will be inevitable.  Where cities like Louisville and Charlotte have flirted with NAGAAA membership in the past and cities like Pittsburgh and Cleveland have moved away from their previous NAGAAA ties, Des Moines has a unique place geographically on the map and can pull participants from another growing Midwestern city like Omaha, Nebraska to its East.  Stay tuned to see if NAGAAA grows by one more city soon.


It’s easy to get caught up in the cycle of arguing minute details at meetings, sequestered in a hotel meeting room for 20 hours over the course of two days can create tunnel vision.  Once again, the NAGAAA Executive Board and the international delegations shows that they all ultimately understand what the organization and our brand of softball is all about.  It’s about family.  Joe Balzer, a respected umpire from Minnesota, Assistant UIC at the 2015 GSWS and a friend to many, fell gravely ill while in Las Vegas, Nevada for the 9th Annual Sin City Shootout over a week ago.  We all hope that he is on his way to a full recovery, but the often insane expenses that come with a major health scare like Joe’s prompted NAGAAA to donate $1,000 to his cause.  Get better soon Joe and we should all be happy to see that NAGAAA doesn’t just send prayers and thoughts, but they back up those feelings of family monetarily in drastic times.

GROWING the A Division in 2017

The A Division stands to have several new players by the time the Portland Series of 2017 rolls around.  This year’s NAGAAA Cup and GSWS will continue to allow B team caps at 185 per team, however starting in 2017 the B team cap will be lowered to 175, which could speed up the long sought after process of evening out the upper divisions from a participation standpoint.


In part to a huge increase in attendance at the 2015 GSWS by Masters Division teams, the Masters Division will have two sub-divisions beginning at the 2017 GSWS.  The two divisions will be named, Classic and Legend making designations between skill level within the division.  The Classic sub-division will allow a team cap of 135 with no players rated over 16.  The Legend sub-division will allow a team cap of 115 with no players over 12.  If anyone watched Masters Division games at the 2015 GSWS, it was very clear that there were teams playing each other that did not need to be playing each other based on sheer skill level.  It was the right move to make this designation from a player safety standpoint if nothing else.


Fierce and competitive elections were held for three NAGAAA Executive Board positions.  The secretary, assistant commissioner and business development positions were up for election.  Two of the races featured candidates seeking re-election.  John “JT” Thomas from the Twin Cities sought reelection and won it against Ryan Holdhusen, former Vice President of Dallas Series 2014 and current PSSA Board Member in Dallas, Texas.  Jack Neilsen, from Chicago was seeking reelection against Catherine “CJ” Kelly, former NAGAAA Committee Chairperson and Kansas City resident.  CJ Kelly won the election and is the new business development board member.  While all three races were hotly contested, the closest of the three races was for the assistant commissioner position.  Keith Speers of Columbus, Ohio took over the position mid-term from former assistant commissioner and NAGAAA Hall of Famer, James Williamson over a year ago.  He did not seek reelection, which opened the race up to two very different faces.  Paula “PC” Cline, former NAGAAA Member at Large and former longtime commissioner of the Denver Area Softball League ran against Kevin Riddle, former longtime commissioner of the Metro Nashville Softball Association.  Mr. Riddle took the election by a mere four votes and will take over the NAGAAA assistant commissioner duties.


We’re just getting started this year in regard to covering everything NAGAAA related across North America.  Whether your league is just weeks away from starting or still months away from getting going, check back with us early and often as we at the Diamond Dish put our best foot forward to tell the stories associated with the sport we love to play.  Good luck to everyone at each and every tournament this year and as always, we implore you to travel to many of the fair cities across our continent to experience softball in different and increasingly diverse ways.





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NAGAAA Summer Meetings: Final Wrap Up


Seven Changes (Other Than Ratings) At The 2015 NAGAAA Summer Meetings

The major player rating question changes that the international voting delegation of NAGAAA voted on at this year’s Summer Meetings in Columbus, Ohio took up most of the spotlight in a weekend jam-packed with happenings and events.  In fact, so much was changed and accomplished at the international governing body’s latest meeting that we needed three different posts just to explain it all.

While most folks have probably already seen the adjustments that were made to the player rating guidelines, most specifically changes to base running questions (15-18) and to advanced hitting questions (23-26), that’s not all that was changed in Ohio this August.

We’ve highlighted the other changes in a Top Seven list for your enjoyment:

  1.  1-1 Count Beginning At 2016 GSWS

Yes, you saw that correctly.  No longer will a 0-0 count be in effect at the GSWS beginning in Austin next year.  Interestingly enough, the time limits did not change and were not up for debate.  So, for next year we will see a 1-1 count with the same 55 minute time limits for pool play and 60 minute time limits for double elimination games.  This should mean more opportunities to score runs and more innings overall.  In 2016, we could see more games go to a complete seven innings within the time limit than ever before.

2.  Clearer Definition On Using Wrong Courtesy Runner

While the Master’s Division is the only division that gets the use of a courtesy runner at the GSWS there have been many questions surrounding what happens if the last out isn’t used as the courtesy runner and an incorrect runner is then put in the game to run.  The motion to make the following changes to the existing part of Softball Code 4.2 M was passed:

Current language in NAGAAA Softball Code 4.2 M –

Masters Division: One (1) courtesy runner per inning shall be allowed. Courtesy runner will be the last completed at-bat not already on base.

Added language in the motion that was passed at 2015 NAGAAA Summer Meetings –

If the wrong courtesy runner is placed on the base and

    1.  is discovered before the next pitch, legal or illegal, the incorrect runner will be called out.

   2.  is discovered after the next pitch, legal or not, the runner will remain and become the legal runner.

3.  Change To GSWS Pool Play Forfeit Procedure

Previously before a motion to change it was passed, a team forfeiting its first game of the day in pool play would have to appeal to continue in the tournament with the protest committee.  Protest committees do not meet at the fields during pool play meaning that the team would automatically forfeit its second game too.  Softball Code has now been changed to allow the team that forfeited its first game of the day to appeal to the Athletic Director at the fields.  This now gives the Athletic Director the opportunity to decide whether the team should be able to continue or not.

4.  Eligibility To Play In Multiple Member City Associations Within The Same Season

This motion was penned by Phil Lagoy, Commissioner of the Renaissance City Softball League in Rhode Island.  His argument was that leagues that are close in proximity to one another, like the RCSL and Boston for example, have leagues that end at different times of the Summer and some players would like to play in both leagues to play more softball.  Softball Code section 7.5 part A, expressly stated that the same player cannot play in two different member organizations within the same GSWS qualifying season.

The motion to allow a player to play in multiple leagues in the same season as long as they declare which league will be their GSWS qualifying league prior to the start of both seasons, passed in a close vote.  We urge all players that want to use this change to their advantage to contact your local NAGAAA member league board/commissioner to make sure all rules and regulations are followed properly.

5.    GSWS Berth Addition

Kyle Miller, Commissioner of the Hotlanta Softball League and the NAGAAA Marketing & Communications Committee Chairman, brought a motion to give NAGAAA member cities with team participation between 30 to 34 teams an additional bid to the GSWS.

Prior to the motion passing, all cities with team membership between 25 – 34 were awarded just seven bids to the GSWS.  Moving forward this change splits that. Now, cities with teams totaling 30-34 get an eighth bid.  Cities with teams totaling 25-29 still get their seven bids.

6.  Definition Revisions

In addition to the much hyped changes to the base running and advanced hitting questions within the NAGAAA Player Rating Guidelines, there were also changes made to definitions that are found in NAGAAA Softball Code 1.1.  The below list has the current words/phrases that are found in NAGAAA Softball Code and what the changes are.

1.03  Amateur –  added “a player who does not currently receive compensation – monetary or in kind – for playing softball.”

1.17  Hard Hit Ball –  added “or a ground ball that would roll to a distance greater than 225 feet, if not impeded.”

1.22  In the Gap –  added “(about 20-12 steps) after radius”

1.23  In the Hole –  added “(about 4-5 steps) after radius”

1.29  Long Throw –  added “in the air” at the end

1.31  Medium Hit Ball –  added “or a ground ball that would roll to a distance of 125-225 feet, if not impeded.”

1.32  Medium Velocity –  added “or a ground ball that would roll to a distance of 125-225 feet, if not impeded.”

1.36  No Repeat –  “The exclusion of a team from being able to compete in a specified division because the team has 4 or more players who competed in that division the previous year on teams that finished in 1st or 2nd place.”

1.47  Rudimentary Knowledge –  “Introductory knowledge of the rules of the game of slow pitch softball.”

1.49  Slow Hit Ball –  added “or a ground ball that would roll to a distance of less than 125 feet, if not impeded.”

Great news, if you read the NAGAAA Summer Meetings –  Wrap Up Part 1 post on our site you would probably be thrilled to know we now have a definition for rudimentary knowledge on the books.  Defining definitions is usually the best way to go.  The majority of these changes are actually additions to definitions regarding hitting that previously didn’t account for balls hit on the ground.  It can still be pretty subjective and hard to tell if a hard hit ball or a medium hit ball by definition would be able to actually play out if someone tried to use the ground ball option within the new definition.  Most of the time a player is going to stop a ground ball hit right to them and trying to decide whether that ball would have kept going a certain distance after it is stopped by the player could be interesting.

7.  Removal of Non-LGBT Player Limit Per Team Fails

The motion to remove the limit per team of non-LGBT players was brought forth by Vincent Fuqua of San Francisco.  Mr. Fuqua along with some other folks in the rooms spoke about how the landscape in our society and within our organization has changed.  He and others didn’t feel that there was necessarily a need to have this in the organization’s bylaws anymore.  There were many passionate responses against removing the non-LGBT player limit and ultimately that side won.  There was a roll call vote taken and we have listed the cities/board members and how they voted.  The motion failed 34 to 13 with 1 abstention.  NOTE:  This is an unofficial count of the votes.


Assistant Commissioner, Treasurer, Business Development, Secretary, Austin, Palm Springs, Fort Lauderdale, Philadelphia, Dallas, Denver, Nashville, Chicago, Washington DC, Kansas City, Southern New England, Long Beach, Birmingham, Madison, New York, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Sacramento, Phoenix, Tulsa, Boston, Rhode Island, Memphis, Saint Louis, Columbus, Knoxville, Tampa, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Las Vegas


Member-at-Large, San Francisco, Houston, Orlando, Montreal, Milwaukee, Portland, San Diego, Seattle, San Jose, Toronto, Twin Cities, Vancouver




So, all in all there was a lot going on at the 2015 NAGAAA Summer Meetings.  The delegates went nearly three hours over the planned meeting time on Sunday after a very long day on Saturday to try to implement real changes and get something done for the international membership.  They certainly accomplished that and the membership in each city across North America will make it known if these changes and adjustments suit them or not.  We at the Diamond Dish, strongly urge you to stay in contact with your local league’s NAGAAA delegate.  Learn who that is and talk with them about what’s going on.  In addition to what we’ve covered about the meetings in our three-part wrap up series, many other exciting things are going on surrounding the specific NAGAAA committees including the NAGAAA Archives headed up by Paul Falcone and the NAGAAA Hall of Fame, which his overseen by former NAGAAA Commissioner, Roy Melani.

We will be giving those two institutions and many other issues their just due on the site before the end of the year.  As always, thanks for reading and happy trophy hunting to all players in their Fall tournaments.


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NAGAAA Summer Meetings: Wrap Up – Part 2



Base Running Not The Only Ratings Questions Changing

In Part 1 of our 2015 NAGAAA Summer Meetings wrap up we delved into the changes being made to base running questions and now we’ll talk about the changes to the advanced hitting questions within the 27 point NAGAAA Player Rating Guidelines.

Until the last few years the majority of protests, especially in the C & D Divisions hinged on the more basic offensive questions (19-22).  Over the last several years a trend has formed with more protests being brought against players in the areas of base running (15-18) and advanced hitting (23-26).

Let’s look at the questions we’re parting ways with first in regard to advanced hitting and then what the international voting delegation of NAGAAA replaced the old questions with.

For your consideration (from NAGAAA IOG – Appendix 2 Player Rating Guidelines) :

Questions 19-27 are intended to be answered based on the outcome – not counting walks – of each completed at bat (whether the batter reaches base or is out on the final pitch of the at bat), not based on the outcome of each swing during an at bat.

The information above is outlining a “modified on base percentage” as the basis for figuring out if the player should have the question or not.  Batting average is not applicable and would be ignored as it is not the criteria by which these questions are decided.  Modified On Base Percentage does not count walks, but does count errors as a safely hit ball if the runner reaches on the error.

Question #23 – consistently reach base safely on a batted ball against a limited level of defense?  OR  occasionally reach base safely on a batted ball against an intermediate level of defense?

When breaking down this question one can see why it is so hard to be sure a player needs this question.  The same problems that we saw with the former base running questions are occurring here too.  First, let’s look at what consistently and occasionally are for hitting questions.

OCCASIONALLY:  To be able to perform the particular skill, but without regularity. (i.e. the skill can be performed 2 out of 5 times)

CONSISTENTLY:  To be able to perform the particular skill with some regularity or more often than not. (i.e. the skill can be performed 3 out of 5 times)

Now that we have what occasionally and consistently mean in terms of hitting one must use their imagination to decide if the player could reach base safely against a limited or intermediate level of defense.  This is exactly the same kind of ambiguity and subjective nature that we saw in the base running questions that were replaced.

Forget for a second about how hard it would be for a player to take getting this question put on them with all of the murky criteria that is involved, but what about the people sitting on a protest committee when this question comes up?  It would have to be hard for a committee to uphold a protest on this question because the entire question is based outside of reality.  The committee most likely would have to create an imaginary scenario and then ask themselves if the player could perform up to a .600 modified on base percentage against a limited level of defense or a .400 modified on base percentage against an intermediate level of defense. To say this line of questioning within the rating guidelines is unclear would be an understatement.

Question #24 – consistently reach base safely on a batted ball against an intermediate level of defense?  OR  occasionally reach base safely on a batted ball against an exceptional level of defense?

More of the same.  Imaginary criteria with defensive levels that most players will never see in a real game.

Question #25 – consistently reach base safely on a batted ball with high velocity against an intermediate level of defense?  OR  consistently reach base safely on a batted ball against an exceptional level of defense?

The definition for intermediate level of defense is almost unbelievable.  Intermediate defense per NAGAAA Softball Code, Section 1.12 is as follows:

An intermediate level of defense is a theoretical set of players having skills greater than the limited level of defense but less than an exceptional level of defense.

It’s hard to fathom that a hard definition with the exact questions needed by all of the theoretical defenders isn’t present for this level of defense.  Technically speaking, any imaginary combination of fielders could have the following defensive rating combinations for someone rating a player to try to decipher whether they should have the question or not:

1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8

1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9

1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9

1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

More criteria within an already near impossible question to give someone based on the definitions.  It will make your brain liquefy in your skull trying to wrap your mind around it.

Question #26 – consistently reach base safely on a batted ball with high velocity against an exceptional level of defense?

Moving on…

The intention in how the old advanced hitting questions are analyzed and presented within this post isn’t to diminish the old ratings system.  The 27 point player rating guidelines has served the membership very well since their inception.  However, our game has changed.  Our organization has changed and in many respects, the way we rate players and play the game has changed.  It is time that the rating questions begin to reflect those changes in this different time.

Now that we’ve looked at what we had, let’s look at what we will have in 2016 and possibly beyond.

To get advanced hitting questions, as it was explained at the 2015 NAGAAA Summer Meetings you will need the following:

Question #23 –  a modified on base percentage of:

.800  against the D Division

.600  against the C Division

.300  against the B Division

.100   against the A Division

Question #24 – a modified on base percentage of:

.900  against the D Division

.700  against the C Division

.500  against the B Division

.300  against the A Division

Question #25 – a modified on base percentage of:

.975  against the D Division

.800  against the C Division

.600  against the B Division

.400  against the A Division

Question #26 – a modified on base percentage of:

1.000 against the D Division

.875  against the C Division

.750  against the B Division

.600  against the A Division

Just like with the base running changes, these adjustments don’t abandon all of the former questioning criteria, but it does strip away the defensive ambiguity when having to imagine a defense that simply isn’t there in the real world.  Now, a player will be judged on their modified on base percentage against divisional teams.  If the player hits the modified on base percentage against the divisional competition outlined in the question then you can fairly put the question on a player.  However, as we noted in the base running questions there are no set amount of attempts for the player to qualify for the question.

Take the new question #23 for example.  This could be up for debate, but it appears that it is much harder for a D rated player to get question 23 under the new system.  You’ll remember that the previous question #23 called for a .600 modified on base percentage against a limited level of defense.  As we discussed in the base running post earlier this week, no D teams at the 2015 GSWS were at a limited level of defense.  Those teams were BELOW a limited level of defense as defined in the NAGAAA Softball Code.  The next logical step would be to have to hit .800 against a team rated at below a limited level of defense. This change falls more in line with what the next step should be for a quality hitter in each division. 

This will fundamentally change the way players are rated on advanced hitting questions because questions will be easier to legitimately prove and the thresholds have changed.  No more imagination required.  We are living in a new reality in relation to base running and advanced hitting.

Finally, kudos to the NAGAAA delegates and to the Executive Board for getting something done on ratings.  Whether these changes stick or players and managers like the difference will remain to be seen, but these folks deserve credit for trying to move our ratings process along to better serve the international membership.






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NAGAAA Summer Meetings: Wrap Up


Ratings Shake Up: A New Base Running Frontier

Wholesale ratings questions changes were up for debate at the 2015 NAGAAA Summer Meetings in Columbus, Ohio this August and after all was said and done the international delegation decided that indeed, there would be some changes coming to the questions that NAGAAA member city board members and managers rate their players by.

The agreed upon changes will take effect for the 2016 year and will fundamentally change the way players are rated in the areas of base running and advanced hitting.  In this post, we will dive into the changes that were made to base running.

Most of us that have traveled to tournaments in different cities, states and regions have noticed an increase in protests involving base running (questions 15 – 18) and the “advanced” hitting questions (questions 23 – 26).  There are many schools of thought as to why these questions have been on the rise in relation to protesting, but one of the chief reasons has to be the ambiguity that surrounded the questions that are on their way out.  When we break down the questions one can see why changes were needed.

For your consideration (from NAGAAA IOG – Appendix 2 Player Rating Guidelines) :

BASE RUNNING Questions #15-18 are linked.  A player who gets Question #17, for example, automatically gets #15 & #16.

Question #15 – go from base to base using rudimentary knowledge of the rules?

The thing about this question is that even if you don’t know what ‘rudimentary’ means you can sort of glean that it means elementary or basic from the fact that it’s the first question in a line of questions that progressively get harder and harder to get for weaker players.  However, just in case the word possibly stumped someone and they had no other device to look up a definition we turn to Softball Code 1.49 where it says the following…

Rudimentary Knowledge – no definition required

Really?  No definition required?  Hmmm….  Literally everything else is defined, but this.  Everything.

So, here’s the definition of ‘rudimentary’ from our good friends at



pertaining to rudiments or first principles; elementary:

a rudimentary knowledge of geometry.


of the nature of a rudiment; undeveloped or vestigial.


Okay, so now that we have ‘rudimentary’ defined and we have a handle on what the ‘spirit of the question’ is we can move on (sort of).

Question #16 – run with average speed and occasionally take extra bases on good hits or errors against a limited level of defense?

There’s a lot going on here.  Let’s break it down by definitions first so that we’re ‘clear’ on what the player must do and what other factors affect whether the player must have the question.

Average Speed – a batter, at the point of contact being able to run from home to first in 4 – 5 seconds.

Occasionally – (in terms of the rating guidelines definition of occasionally on base running) – 3 out of 5 times

Take Extra Bases –  advance at least one base beyond what the opportunity would typically provide a base runner with average speed.

Limited Level of Defense – A limited level of defense is a theoretical set of players having the following skills – 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8

Alright, where to begin…  The subjectivity and complexity of this question truly can be baffling.   For example, many people would probably ask how someone could actually get this question put on them when playing D Division competition?  The way the question reads is important because at the 2015 Gay Softball World Series in the D Division, no teams…repeating…no teams had enough players to field a defense having both questions 3 and 8.  The only team close was the Phoenix Rage (congrats to your 7 players having both 3 and 8).  So, in effect nobody in the D Division at the 2015 GSWS played even a limited level of defense.  The defenses displayed on D Division fields were 100% BELOW a limited level of defense.

The point is that if we try to assess this question in real life it is impossible in certain divisions and just plain difficult in other divisions.  Using your imagination and presenting a good case to a voting committee shouldn’t put a question on someone.

When a question has ‘theoretical’ within it the question is inherently flawed from the get go.  The way this question is worded makes one think that they should shut their eyes and imagine that if said player’s running skills were up against a team having all 6 of the qualifying questions at every position, could said player reach safely on a good hit or an error.  In addition to the limited level of defense issues with the question, there is speed factoring in along with a certain number of times the player must display the skill (but they actually never have to display the skill in a game against real competition because it can be ‘theoretical’ in nature).

Question #17 – run aggressively with average or better speed and occasionally take extra bases on good hits or errors against an intermediate level of defense?

The same kind of issues from Question #16 arise with this question.  Imaginary criteria and too much subjectivity/complexity.

Question #18 – run very aggressively and occasionally take extra bases on good hits or errors against an exceptional level of defense?

As in Questions 16 & 17 we see the same repeat issues.

Looking at the now former rating guidelines regarding base running really shows how important it was for the voting delegation of NAGAAA to fully commit to making a change in this area of player ratings.  The delegation did the right thing by allowing something else to take the place of what we had.  The game has evolved, our players skill levels are changing on a yearly basis and the majority of folks that travel and love to play, spend too much money and time to have a player from their team get protested out of a tournament because five people on a protest committee are told by the guidelines in which they are trying to uphold to forget about what they did against real competition and to hypothetically figure out if their skills match up to what the question says.  Taking the guesswork out of it makes it fair, which is what we should all be striving for in the ratings and protest process.

Now, you might be asking what the old questions were replaced with?

The system name of rating base running will probably gain traction as “Speed + 1”.  This name comes from the fact that there will be basic speed guidelines that a player must hit to receive a question and then the player must also display one of a set of three skills to be awarded the corresponding running question.

The great thing about the way we will rate our base runners moving forward is that the new criteria takes away not just an imaginary defense’s role in the questioning, but it takes away the defense’s role period.  The questions focus strictly on what the player can do and sometimes what the player can do with the help of a base coach.

To get base running questions, as it was explained at the 2015 NAGAAA Summer Meetings you will need the following:

Question #15:  Below Average Base Runner

Criteria:  SPEED (greater than or equal to 5 seconds between bases) + one of the following:  BASE RUNNING KNOWLEDGE (runs past first base, but doesn’t run past other bases), USE OF BASE COACH (does not generally use base coach), SLIDING (does not slide).

*Okay, here are some gripes with the new ratings criteria and everyone can form their own opinions on it too.  Having a speed component is great and should be used first and foremost.  However, I take an exception to the sliding component and how it is administered in relation to a below average runner.  Sliding is quite simply not an advanced skill.  On the other hand, sliding properly, using a certain technique is an advanced skill.  Also, in several base running scenarios the ASA rulebook requires runners to make an attempt not to interfere with a defender’s opportunity to make a play.  Sliding is a large part of getting out-of-the-way not only to stay within the rules of the game, but also to provide some safety to both the runner and the defender.  The point being made here is that just because someone mentally chooses not to slide for whatever reason, that doesn’t mean they are a below average runner.  Conversely, just because someone occasionally slides that doesn’t make them an average runner.  Just food for thought.  Remember, you only need one of the other three criteria to gain the question if you have the qualifying speed.*

QUESTION #16:  Average Base Runner

Criteria:  SPEED (4.00 seconds to 4.99 seconds between bases) + one of the following:  BASE RUNNING KNOWLEDGE (gets solid jump-start out of the batters box; tags up; goes half way on a fly ball; rounds bases with proper technique), USE OF BASE COACH (sometimes utilizes base coach), SLIDING (sometimes slides to be safe).

*D Division players will be at risk the most in accordance with gaining this question.  Many times, managers in the lower division give running questions based on the fact that their players are in the lowest division.  Accordingly, many players in the D Division have one running question and nothing else.  Think about how long 5 seconds is to a base.  There will be many D Division players that will qualify for the average base running speed and then will also qualify for one of the three other criteria.  This change could be the final nudge over the edge into the C Division for D Division players that are trying to find their place in a rapidly changing division under the recent ratings changes.*

QUESTION #17: Above Average Base Runner

Criteria:  SPEED (3.00 seconds to 3.99 seconds between bases) + one of the following:  BASE RUNNING KNOWLEDGE (aggressive jump-start out of the batters box; makes a turn at first and goes about half way to second base on an outfield base hit; advances on a slightly bobbled ball), USE OF BASE COACH (uses base coach’s directions or has enough awareness of the ball’s position to make decisions for him/herself), SLIDING (executes several different slides to avoid tags; slides with a deliberate attempt to break up a double play).

*The cautionary tale I see here as the questions become harder for players to get due to the speed component coming in first on every question, is that the questions almost seem to assume that a slower player wouldn’t have the base running knowledge.  However, in reality there are many players that possess below average speed or average speed and possess above average base running knowledge.  It’s just something to think about as we all move forward on this new journey in rating base runners.*

QUESTION #18:  Exceptional Base Runner

Criteria:  SPEED (2.99 seconds or less between the bases) + one of the following:  BASE RUNNING KNOWLEDGE (makes an attempt to turn a routine base hit into a double on a ball hit to a player who is adept at fielding and throwing), USE OF BASE COACH (willing to take a chance for an extra base against base coach’s advice), SLIDING (similar skills to the above average player but achieves greater frequency of success).

*Finally, the last nitpick will be addressed.  I’m sure the ‘spirit of the criteria’ in regard to what is considered exceptional use of a base coach is well intended.  However, how can we assume that a player that’s willing to go against a base coach’s advice is an exceptional base runner? Maybe he or she is a terrible base runner and is stubborn as a mule?  Who knows, but in thinking about what you might have to go through to prove that in a protest would be interesting.*

Putting a bow on all of this base running business, these changes are a move in the right direction and hopefully the international delegation will continue to support hard evidence and facts in relation to rating players and then protesting players instead of conjecture, hearsay and imagination.  What will now happen to players and their ratings across the country as a result of the base running questions changing?  It’s hard to say, but with speed being the top component and everything else coming after it one could see several players that have a running question, lose the question they have because they don’t qualify speed-wise.  You could see some C and B level players also losing points that they might have had because of the old ratings “eye test”, meaning that because you’re a C or B player you should automatically have questions 16 or 17.  All in all slower runners are going to see their ratings going down as a result of the new criteria.

One thing is for certain, stopwatches will be in fashion at the fields in 2016.

*The Diamond Dish Blog is devoted to promoting the game of softball, specifically LGBT slow pitch softball.  From time to time, the blog posts on this website can be opinion pieces or strictly news and event reporting.  Then, there are times like this post where those lines are blurred.*

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2017 World Series Bids Presented

Three Cities Vying To Host 2017 GSWS

The first day of the 2015 NAGAAA Summer Meetings came to a close on Saturday, but not before representatives from Phoenix, Portland and Tampa all stated their case on why their city is the best choice to host the 2017 Gay Softball World Series.  The NAGAAA Executive Board travels to potential host cities once they put in all necessary paperwork to bid for a World Series.  A rubric/scoring system is in place that generates a score for each city to help the delegation make a more educated decision on which city is the best choice.  The scores do not choose the winner, the delegation votes to determine host cities.  The scoring system will be mentioned as we go through each bid presentation, but remember that it is only a tool that delegates can use if they want to.

PORTLAND, OREGON – Progress, Pride & Play

NAGAAA Host City Bid Rubric Score:  195 out of 240

Potential Series Dates:  September 4 – 9

Portland stepped up to the plate first after a random drawing for the presentation order.  The presentation was presided over by former NAGAAA Commissioner and Portland native, Roy Melani.  He and the committee talked about the outstanding program that they want to implement should they win the Series bid.  An extremely creative video, which was more of a short film really wowed the delegation and set the tone for a professional and well put together bid presentation.  The folks from Portland wanted to show that they were serious about the bid and they achieved that by having the sales manager of the Doubletree Hotel in Portland and the CEO of the Oregon Sports Authority speak to the delegation.

There was a recurring theme within the presentation regarding the fact that participants would be able to take advantage of no sales tax in Portland, which the committee pointed out could work out to be as much as an $800 savings per team over the course of a week.  Mr. Melani also made the delegation aware that Nike plans on playing a huge role in helping make the tournament the best it can be if Portland were to win.  Columbia Sportswear is also waiting in the wings to come on board as a 2017 Series sponsor should Portland get the nod.  The hotel pricing was reasonable at $139 to $149 a night, with the Doubletree most likely being the main host hotel.  Overall, Portland hit their presentation out of the park.  They provided an honest perspective on their city that resonated with the voters in the room and the entire package they put forth was impressive.  This group was creative, prepared and professional, but will it all be enough in a three city vote to get a majority?  We’ll have to see on Sunday.

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – Rise To The Challenge

NAGAAA Host City Bid Rubric Score:  145 out of 240

Potential Series Dates:  September 25 – 30

Next up was the presentation from Phoenix.  This group did a good job on the tagline and logo they used for their Series bid.  On the promotional items that they handed out regarding their tournament the logo stood out from the other two cities.  A video was shown and each member of the presentation spoke about a different part of their bid.  Phoenix did a good job of talking about their main host hotel not just being a hotel, but a resort and they certainly spoke about the quality of their fields.  Honestly, it hurt this group to have to go behind Portland because of how spot on and detailed their presentation was, but the committee from Phoenix did get their main selling points out for everyone to discuss.

The committee announced that the field costs will be waived by the City of Phoenix resulting in a massive amount of savings in the budget.  The hotel rates fall in the $139 to $153 per night range and while they are short on the number of hotel rooms that will be needed, having 500 suites at a resort style hotel is a very big draw.  Overall, Phoenix  has a quality bid, but the execution of their plan to the audience wasn’t as polished as the other two cities.


NAGAAA Host City Rubric Score:  190 out of 240

Potential Series Dates:   September 25 – 30

The final bid presentation came from the Suncoast Softball League in Tampa.  To start, this group handed out very colorful and professional information about their bid.  The documentation they provided did a good job of catching the delegates eyes immediately making them want to flip through and get the information, even before the presentation actually started.  Ron Frank, Suncoast Softball League B Division Commissioner led the presentation and did an outstanding job of educated the delegation on why Tampa is the best choice for the 2017 GSWS.  Drew Drosinos, Suncoast Softball League Commissioner also spoke about the Southeastern United States not having hosted a GSWS since 2006 in Fort Lauderdale, which is an even longer host drought than the West Coast has going currently.

Tampa is planning to have four host hotels with roughly 200 rooms at each hotel to meet the number of rooms that GSWS participants will need.  There will be five softball complexes used to make sure there is enough space for this ever-growing tournament.  The Tampa Bay Sports Commission is behind the bid along with multiple political figures and  The committee spoke about choosing the later dates to hold the tournament being due to the chances of a major rain event being historically less likely.  Tampa certainly got its point across regarding being just 20 minutes from the beach and about how gay friendly the city is.  Overall, this group’s materials were professional and creative, the verbal presentation was professional and inviting and their bid is solid.  Will Tampa’s beaches and its fairly close proximity to so many cities win out?  The Sunday morning vote will decide it.

Generally speaking, each city had pros and cons, not unlike other years.  There were several quality bids this year, but only one can win.  We will have video of the vote up on the Diamond Dish Facebook page within minutes of the decision on Sunday morning.  Now, hurry up and get a hold of your NAGAAA representative to tell him or her where you want to be at for the 2017 GSWS.

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Tournament Spotlight: 2015 GSWS



Columbus Is ALL IN For The 39th Gay Softball World Series


Picture it…Columbus, Ohio…August 2010.

A first time Gay Softball World Series host city embarked on a memorable week of fun, competition and unforgettable memories.  The city treated its patrons to a vibrant nightlife, a clean and safe city, a bevy of dining and entertainment options and the tournament was contested entirely in the United States’ largest softball complex.

For those folks that participated in the 2010 GSWS in Columbus, Ohio we all got the sense that this city was proving itself on an international stage.  The host committee and the people involved with the bid took it on as a challenge to make sure that people didn’t just leave Columbus saying “it was a good time”.  That 2010 committee did it’s job and then some because just about everywhere you go from tournament to tournament and each World Series in between 2010 and today, the gay softball community has been saying “when are we going back”.

Now, cut to August 2015.

The wait is almost over for NAGAAA players, coaches, fans and supporters.  The 2015 GSWS is less than two weeks away and while some of the venues, businesses, faces and organizers are the same…Columbus is eager to show you how it’s stepped up its game.  The bar continues to be raised when it comes to the GSWS.  Year after year, the event gets larger and with an ever-increasing number of participants, it creates a bigger challenge for host committees.  How do organizations like the 2015 GSWS Host Committee continue to answer the bell and provide a spectacular experience for the participants?

For starters we asked 2015 GSWS Executive Director, Dallas Aldridge how a week-long event like this comes together and what this year’s participants can expect in Ohio this August.  With Columbus becoming a second time host city and having five of its eight committee members returning from 2010, some people might assume the committee knows what to expect.  After talking to the head man in charge of the 2015 GSWS Committee we learned that’s not the case.  “Our learning from 2010 was to expect the unexpected! So much so, we made it part of our social media strategy this year! Something is not going to go according to plan and as long as we work together as a team we will get through it, resolve it and sometimes make it better.  As long as our team stays focused and execute plan A or plan B, many attendees may not even know of the last-minute changes,” said Aldridge.

While it’s clear that controlling everything in a week-long event with over 180 teams is impossible, one thing that the committee has been able to control is the amount of technology that is being used at this year’s World Series.  The use of technology to improve registration, create a better ease of information to participants and to communicate more effectively could end up being the legacy of the 2015 GSWS and the legacy this committee is leaving for subsequent GSWS committees.  You must check out the GSWS app which is available for Apple and Android users.  Download it today and be amazed at the amount of professional level content that will actually benefit you leading up to Series and while you’re in Columbus.  “The APP was a crazy idea from our marketing team who said it was time. We are so grateful to our two developers – Matheda and Sky Iron Studios LLC who donated in excess of $60,000 of development time for both the iOS and Android versions that will allow every attendee to have all the information for the entire GSWS at their fingertips. In our next release due just before the World Series we are adding push notification so in the unlikely event we need to change a game time, a field, or have some unexpected change we need to communicate we can easily contact the masses without having to do the usual hunt for manager’s phone numbers or run around the fields – It’s a big park! And the first time we will be able to easily communicate any last-minute updates – We LOVE the APP – and even better our developers have committed to paying it forward and will be updating the initial screens to Austin 2016 information at the conclusion of GSWS 2015. It’s our way of saying we are all NAGAAA family and sharing the wealth,” added Series Executive Director, Dallas Aldridge.

Continuing with the technology theme, participants can expect electronic registration for the very first time at a World Series.  There will still be volunteers helping you get registered, but the committee and NAGAAA has replaced the old paper spreadsheets for tablets/kiosks.  “When we looked to improve the overall player experience we thought this was something we could completely overhaul not only to the benefit our volunteers but also our players, and NAGAAA who need to ensure those players on the field are qualified and verified. It helps that we have a tech geek on our team who built the system from scratch to accommodate our needs rather than try to fit our process into a standard tool,” Aldridge stated.

Moving on to off the field fun, the amount of events that participants have the option to attend is staggering.  This committee knew it would have its work cut out for them to keep the bar where Dallas Series 2014 left it and an even bigger challenge to improve upon it, but they have met that challenge head on and have a fantastic week plus planned for everyone.  “We have worked really hard to program a week of events that has something for everyone, player, official, delegate, supporter, fan or family. While we have some of the most popular elements returning from 2010, this will not be a repeat of that World Series. So, whether this is your first time to Columbus or you were here in 2010 we want you to leave saying the GSWS was amazing and you can’t wait to do it again in Austin 2016. This event is not only about softball, it is about building our community, supporting each other and giving us a safe space to express ourselves regardless of whether we are an athlete, an ally or a supporter. In many ways, the GSWS is like the largest family reunion each year,” added Aldridge.

Volunteers are the life blood of running a smooth event and this year’s World Series is no different.  The 2015 GSWS has an online volunteer portal where you can sign up for volunteer shifts and see which events need your help the most.  “Within the first 10 days we have over 135 volunteers already registered for a shift, and in some cases we have volunteers signing up for multiple shifts.  We have a need for over 500 volunteers during the GSWS.  If anyone is interested, they can find additional information and sign up for a shift or two at We cannot do this event without our volunteers so even if it is just one shift, it counts,” Aldridge stated.

Aside from all of the excitement surrounding going back to Columbus, playing all of the tournament games at one complex and the technological additions, there is a lot of buzz about this being the biggest Gay Softball World Series in history and the tournament host committee members are thrilled to see this playing out in their home city.  We asked Dallas Aldridge, 2015 GSWS Executive Director what he was most excited about.  “If we are able to hit near 200 teams it will be a significant milestone for NAGAAA and the Gay Softball World Series.  It shows that interest in softball and this organization is continuing to grow because of the efforts of our member cities and the local leagues across North America.  “Also, I am excited to show off our city. If someone was here in 2010 and hasn’t been here since, they will notice the changes to the city in only five years.  The Opening Ceremonies is at the top of my list of things not to miss.  I feel we are really going to book end the GSWS with a fantastic Opening Ceremonies and a Closing Party that will be very memorable.  We have been using the tag line “expect the unexpected”, we are trying to add things to events that will leave a lasting impression for those attending and create memories we will all be talking about for years to come,” said Aldridge.

Regardless of any trip ups or minor issues that arise throughout the week this group in Columbus has raised the bar once again and the event hasn’t even officially started yet.  Participants of this year’s GSWS should be prepared for a great week full of fun, softball and lifelong memories.  The City of Columbus and its citizens should be extremely proud of what this committee and its partnerships have achieved already.

Look for special features on the Diamond Dish about the tournament in the week leading up to Series including a closer look at events, sponsors and about the competition culminating in our coverage of the NAGAAA Summer Meetings and World Series predictions.


*A special thank you to Dallas Aldridge, GSWS 2015 Executive Director for his time and help with this GSWS Tournament Spotlight article.*

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