Tournament Spotlight: Lone Star Classic

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The Lone Star Classic Celebrates 25 Years In Houston


If you haven’t heard yet, they do things pretty big down in Texas.  Just six months after Dallas hosted the biggest GSWS ever, the city of Houston, Texas and the Montrose Softball League is ready to welcome teams from Texas and beyond to its 25th Annual Lone Star Classic.

A 50 team tournament field will descend upon Space City this coming weekend just before St. Patrick’s Day to get in some great competition on the field and possibly practicing their St. Patty’s Day drinking too.  The tournament will offer a 6 team B Division, a 20 team C Division and a 24 team D Division.  All teams will be playing under the new NAGAAA ratings guidelines relative to the player rating cap and the team rating cap.

Cedrick Hagan, Lone Star Classic Tournament Director was quick to point out the history of this great tournament.  “The tournament began in 1990.  Since its inception, the tournament has grown tremendously averaging over 50 teams per year.  Over the 25 years, the Lone Star Classic was held over Memorial Day weekend and in 2010, moved to St. Patrick’s Day weekend,” said Hagan.

The host hotel for the tournament is the Hilton Houston Post Oak situated near the famous Galleria in a great part of the city.  It is a short ride to the majority of the bars and isn’t far from one of the tournament sponsors, Neon Boots.  Fields are always a priority, after all that’s the main reason why everyone will be in Southeast Texas this weekend.  The Lone Star Classic will be using two field complexes to keep everyone playing early and often.  The first complex will be the Missouri City Community Park and the second complex is the Houston Sportsplex.  Both complexes are located in the Southwestern part of Houston and are less than 20 miles from the host hotel.  Missouri City will host the B and C Divisions pool play schedule on Saturday morning.  After pool play for those two divisions is finished they will move over to the Houston Sportsplex to join the D Division for the double elimination tournament.

The Lone Star Classic tournament committee is looking forward to a great tournament.  The tournament has gained some consistent traction in regard to total teams entered in recent years and this year’s tournament director has had a hand in making that happen.  “In my four-year tenure, I served as a committee member for one year before taking the reigns as director.  Under my leadership the tournament has grown from 42 teams up to last year’s tournament, which was our biggest at 59,”  said Hagan.

This tournament obviously has a lot of draws and positive attributes that attract teams.  “We have a first class hotel, we provide Texas hospitality and Spring weather,” added Hagan.  Sponsors are always a necessary part of running a great tournament and the 25th edition of the Lone Star Classic is no different.  Friday night’s registration and welcome party will be held at Guava Lamp from 6 to 10 pm with happy hour drink specials.  Saturday night’s fun is hosted by Neon Boots.  There will be a shuttle from the host hotel to and from Neon Boots for convenience.  If you’ve ever tried to drive in Houston, you’ll want to take that shuttle.  Several other sponsors have provided promotional items and other necessary equipment to the tournament including Bud Light, Sports Authority, TPS, Dirt Athletics, Gay Yellow Pages and NW Radio.

Maybe the most important thing is that the weather looks to be outstanding for this weekend’s games.  Unfortunately, rain stopped last year’s tournament dead in its tracks, but it doesn’t look like that will be the case this time around.

The Diamond Dish will be in Houston to cover the tournament.  Like us on Facebook (search ‘Diamond Dish’) and follow us on Twitter (search @softballdish).  Live tweets from the tournament will begin bright and early for the first pitch of the 8 am pool play games.  We’ll see y’all in Houston in just a few short hours!


*Thank you to Cedrick Hagan, LSC Tournament Director for his help with this article.* 

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NAGAAA Winter Meetings Wrap Up

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NAGAAA Winter Meetings – Wrap Up


The NAGAAA Winter Meetings weekend was full of spirited debate, new ideas and decisions that will change the way we participate within the NAGAAA softball structure.  Now, let’s wrap up the meetings by touching on all of the highlights and major issues that were taken up and discussed at the Hyatt Regency in Columbus, Ohio this past weekend.

2017 World Series Bids

  • Phoenix
  • Portland
  • Tampa

Will 2017 be the year that a West Coast city hosts NAGAAA’s signature event?  A West Coast city hasn’t hosted the World Series since Seattle in 2008.  By the time 2017 rolls around it will have been 9 years in between West Coast Series hosts, providing that either Portland or Phoenix win the bid this Summer in Columbus, Ohio.  Tampa would like to bring the tournament back to Florida for the first time since 2006 when Fort Lauderdale hosted.  Other regional areas experiencing World Series hosting droughts include the Southeastern United States (1998, Atlanta), Canada (2000, Toronto) and the Northeastern United States (1991, Boston).

Each potential site has a set of pros and cons attached to it and the Diamond Dish looks forward talking to the bid committees as we move toward the all important vote this August at the NAGAAA Summer Meetings in Columbus, Ohio.

NAGAAA Cup

The NAGAAA cup is set to commence in conjunction with the Saguaro Cup this April in Phoenix, Arizona.  Phoenix is hosting the NAGAAA Cup for the second consecutive year, which should have clued everyone into the fact that Phoenix might be gearing up for a World Series bid.  The 2014 NAGAAA Cup saw the Pick A Stick format used throughout the tournament and its success was a big reason why it was voted for at the Summer Meetings in Dallas this past September.  Currently, NAGAAA Assistant Commissioner Keith Speers is looking for a few more B Division teams to take some spots that recently opened.  If you have a B team that is interested, email Keith at assistantcommissioner@nagaaasoftball.org.

San Francisco announced plans to bid for the 2016 NAGAAA Cup at the Winter Meetings.

2015 GSWS

If there was any doubt that this year’s World Series in Columbus, Ohio was going to be something special, all doubt was put to bed after the host committee’s presentation at the Winter Meetings.

There is a recurring theme of technological advancement at this Series.  The Columbus host committee has changed the landscape of the World Series forever with the unveiling of its GSWS App.  A World Series first, the app features information about the tournament, events, destinations in the host city, a city map, map of Lou Berliner Park and sponsor information.  This a huge leap forward in the overall participant experience at Series and the Columbus host committee must be complimented on having the foresight and initiative to come up with this idea.

Teams coming to the World Series in 2015 will experience electronic registration too.  Banks of electronic tablets will be available to register on when players/managers arrive in Ohio.  This is yet another game changer that should create an ease in registration that the event has never had before.

The Columbus host committee has so much more in store for its visitors this Summer and the Diamond Dish looks forward to showcasing each and every one of the daily/nightly events that are planned for the 2015 GSWS along with giving more information on the overall vision that the committee has for its guests as the year progresses.

Pick A Stick

The success of the Pick A Stick format at the 2014 NAGAAA Cup prompted NAGAAA to bring back Pick A Stick for the 2015 NAGAAA Cup and for this year’s GSWS.  The Diamond Dish will have a post up soon specifically geared toward the Pick A Stick format, but in general there will be two types of bats available at each field with different weights to choose from.  Each team on the field will use the same bats and those bats will be tested prior to the start of the tournament and every evening during the tournament.  Testing of the bats used each evening will ensure that no bats fail and become “hot” while the tournament is ongoing.  Any bats that do fail testing will be removed from the bat pool and replaced.  All American Athletics is partnering with NAGAAA to provide the bats needed to achieve this monumental undertaking at the 2015 GSWS.

Ratings

What would a NAGAAA meeting be like without talking about ratings?  New NAGAAA Assistant Commissioner, Keith Speers, made a compelling presentation of ratings data compiled from all NAGAAA member cities at the “threshold” player rating numbers of 10, 11, 14, 15, 19 and 20.  The preceding numbers are not the questions, but the actual player rating totals themselves.  The information was fascinating to look at and one could just look out over the ballroom at the Hyatt Regency at all of the faces in the room scanning the large pages of numbers.  The information broke down what percentage at a certain player rating within a member league had specific questions related to their overall rating.  First, I think Keith Speers should be applauded here for serving up this information front and center to the delegates to consider.  The other thing that was especially impressive about Keith’s report and presentation was that he didn’t necessarily try to influence anyone either way about the information that was presented to them.  His goal was to get a conversation started about how we can improve the ratings system and certain ambiguities that we find related to some questions.

It was refreshing to see that wealth of information given to everyone at the same time and then hearing some of the comments and thoughts that various league representatives had about the numbers.  While nothing major was accomplished by the voting body in relation to ratings at these meetings, this is hopefully the first step in creating an open dialogue about issues some cities may have in interpreting certain questions.  It was made clear by Speers that cleaning up some rating questions language doesn’t mean there won’t be protests.  “If we ever get to a system where it’s impossible to protest a player then we shouldn’t have that system,” said Speers.  Protests are how we as players and managers can try to hold other players and managers accountable for fair play.  Speers was also very honest about what he thinks the overall goal should and shouldn’t be when it comes to ratings adjustments.  “Eliminating cheating should not be the goal.  If people want to cheat they will and they will hopefully be held accountable for that.  We should be worrying about how much clarity we can provide to the existing questions,” added Speers.

NAGAAA Donating to Michael Petracca Fund

There weren’t very many dry eyes in the house when a video was shown outlining the events that befell San Diego’s Michael Petracca after being hit by a wayward bat at the Sin City Shootout a little over one month ago.  The Diamond Dish reported on the tragedy after it happened along with several other media outlets and a Go Fund Me website page ended up raising over $50,000 to help with his ongoing care and recovery costs.  San Diego delegate Roman Jimenez, read a letter from Michael Petracca out loud to the NAGAAA international delegation at the Winter Meetings thanking everyone in the softball community for their support.  NAGAAA Commissioner Chris Balton, asked for and was granted consent to donate $1,000 from NAGAAA to the recovery fund for Petracca.  Yet another way NAGAAA as an organization shows that it is about more than just softball.

Jeff Stewart Named 2015 GSWS UIC (Umpire In Chief)

The NAGAAA international delegation confirmed Jeff Stewart as the new UIC for the 2015 GSWS.  From Jeff’s comments it looks like there will be less than a handful of secondary UIC’s spread across the massive Lou Berliner Softball Complex this Summer in Columbus to make sure we have swift answers and solutions to issues, however Jeff will be the head man in charge of umpiring for the tournament.  Stewart is highly qualified and has an umpiring designation that less than two tenth’s of one percent of umpires nationally have.  It looks like the 2015 GSWS is in great hands in regard to officiating.

A Division Territories Redefined

A restructuring into a region format for the A Division took place at the 2015 Winter Meetings.  The association territory regions for the A Division only will look like this:

REGION 1

British Columbia (Vancouver), Washington (Seattle), Oregon (Portland), California (Long Beach, Palm Springs, San Diego, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Los Angeles & Sacramento), Nevada (Las Vegas), Arizona (Phoenix), Colorado (Denver), Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii

REGION 2

Texas (Dallas, Houston, Austin), Oklahoma (Oklahoma City, Tulsa), Tennessee (Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville), Louisiana (New Orleans), Alabama (Birmingham), Georgia (Atlanta), Florida (Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando), Virginia (Mid-Atlantic), Washington DC, Maryland, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Arkansas

REGION 3

Ontario (Toronto), Quebec (Montreal), Minnesota (Twin Cities), Ohio (Columbus), New York (New York), Missouri (Kansas City, Saint Louis), Illinois (Chicago), Wisconsin (Milwaukee, Madison), Massachusetts (Boston, Southern New England), Rhode Island, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine

NAGAAA Wants To Move Away From Cash Payments

Specifically in terms of protests fees, NAGAAA Treasurer Jerry Travis, told the delegation at the meeting that it is difficult to track cash payments and if the money is collected at the fields it unfortunately could be in the hands of several different people before it got to him to deposit.  Look for credit/debit cards to be the only method of payment accepted at the fields for protests in the future.

Changes coming to Masters Division ratings in 2016

A vote to lower the player rating threshold in the Masters Division from 15 to 14 and moving the team cap in Masters to 135 took place.  The vote missed implementation for the 2015 GSWS by just one vote.  That means the changes were adopted, but won’t take place until Austin Series 2016.  For one season, now B rated players could be on the field with D rated players in the Masters Division.

Hall of Fame nominee applications due March 15th

Do you have someone in your hometown league that has contributions worthy of submission into the NAGAAA Hall of Fame?  If you think so, get with your local NAGAAA delegate and Board of Commissioners to get an application and supporting documentation together.  The deadline is approaching quickly!  Go to the NAGAAA website for more information.

New Member Cities Not Likely Anytime Soon

Louisville was represented at last year’s Summer Meetings in Dallas, but was noticeably absent at the 2015 Winter Meetings.  During the membership committee report, NAGAAA Hall of Famer Ken Scearce of Los Angeles notified the delegation that a special board meeting took place in Lousiville a few days before the Winter Meetings with a vote taken 7-5 in favor of not pursuing membership in NAGAAA at this time.  According to several sources, Raleigh, North Carolina has been mentioned as a next possible membership addition and could be provided they’re represented at the Summer Meetings in Ohio this August.

Executive Board Elections

NAGAAA Executive Board positions that were up for election included Commissioner, Treasurer and Member at Large.  Chris Balton was re-elected as NAGAAA Commissioner.  He ran unopposed for the position.  Jerry Travis beat out Mike Rice of Chicago to be re-elected as the NAGAAA Treasurer.  Finally, John Hunking of Toronto bested Brad Sullivan of Tulsa to become the new NAGAAA Member at Large.  John will replace Paula Cline who previously held that position.

All told it was a fantastic weekend with so much information in a short amount of time.  These delegates worked for twelve hours on Saturday and another six hours on Sunday to try to better the organization that we all enjoy playing under in our member cities and at tournaments.  The information discussed on this blog post was only about half of what was discussed and took up at the meetings.  Much of the meetings focused on getting some issues with Instruments of Governance and the Softball Code fixed along with taking up some motions that cleaned up other areas of the organization.  The administrative issues that an organization of this size normally has can be daunting, but the delegates and the Executive Board do a good job of exercising patience and getting through the somewhat arduous agenda that is usually set before them.  Until Columbus this August……

 

 

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Women Welcome In NAGAAA Open Division

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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.

Fuzion made a BIG impact at Dallas Series 2014.

Fuzion made a BIG impact at Dallas Series 2014.

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

Fuzion's GSWS & Team Banners at Dallas Series 2014.

Fuzion’s GSWS & Team Banners at Dallas Series 2014.

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.*

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Sin City Shootout: Wrap Up

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Sin City Shootout:  Wrap Up


A fun weekend was had by all at the 8th Annual Sin City Shootout Sports Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada.  In terms of the softball tournament portion of the festival the competition was fiercely competitive as it was expected to be considering this was the last tournament played under the now “old” NAGAAA ratings guidelines.  With that being said, there were some awesome advantages for the participants at this year’s tournament and there were also some disadvantages that we’ll take a quick look at in a pros/cons format.

PROS

  • LOCATION:  Las Vegas didn’t disappoint as the Tropicana resort was packed with festival participants and it was great to see how the Tropicana embraced the tournament and promoted their association with the tournament throughout the weekend.  The dealers wearing Sin City Shootout t-shirts and the gaming tables embossed with the Sin City Shootout logo were especially nice touches.
  • WEATHER:  The desert nights got a little chilly, but all in all it was great to play a tournament where inclement weather was out of the equation.  It just makes the weekend more enjoyable that way!
  • PARTIES:  Wow.  When you walk into the “registration party” it is so much more than walking into some bar, finding the table, signing your name, getting your wristband, having a cocktail and heading back to the hotel.  The registration party was everything Vegas is about.  It was flashy, over the top, huge and most importantly….fabulous.  Let’s just say you need to see it to believe it.  The closing  party was no slouch either with 80’s pop star Tiffany coming on late to sing a couple of songs and thousands of festival participants staying out til the break of dawn.
  • FIELDS:  Now, before anyone takes an exception to this….everyone can agree we’ve played on worse fields before.  Some of the fields weren’t the greatest, but they were playable, dry and free of major issues.

CONS

  • NUMBER OF TEAMS:  This year it seemed like the tournament was possibly too big for the time frame.  A tournament can never be too big, generally speaking, if the tournament has the proper amount of time to play all of the games.  It was glaring this year that if this tournament isn’t going to expand its dates of play to at least Friday it might be a good option to work with a lower team cap per division.  This year’s tournament was significantly larger than the Gay Softball World Series when including the women’s division teams.  The difference being that the GSWS has five days of play and the Sin City Shootout only has two.
  • LACK OF COMMUNICATION:  There were some extenuating circumstances regarding a delay in between pool play ending and the double elimination tournament beginning.  However, the lack of accessibility to the bracketing information and any information regarding game results was disappointing.  When a tournament gets as big as this one is, the next logical step would be to move toward a centralized technology based bracketing setup similar to the myGSWS website that the GSWS uses.  If teams in the same division are playing double elimination games at different parks the information must be readily accessible to those teams as to where they go next and who they play.  If there are over 200 teams participating, an old-fashioned banner bracket that is filled out in Sharpie just seems like a dated way of communicating.
  • TEAM RATINGS:  Nobody had access to the team ratings for their division.  Once again, if you’re going to tout that your tournament is larger than the GSWS then it would seem like an easy proposition to copy off of some of the things that NAGAAA does in running its flagship tournament.  At every GSWS there is either a stapled hard copy of the ratings afforded to managers at registration/coaches meeting or a digital copy is made available that can be downloaded onto smartphones, tablets, etc.  This has nothing to do with promoting protesting.  This has everything to do with promoting transparency in regard to ratings which is always a hot button issue.  The tournament’s policy is that no protests are allowed once double elimination play begins and that is the tournament’s prerogative to have that policy, but to not afford managers the ratings makes it extremely difficult to execute a protest as they already had limited time to do so.
  • LACK OF FIELD SIGNAGE:  Overall the field complexes were satisfactory, but what wasn’t satisfactory was that given how some of the complexes were laid out it was very difficult to tell what 4 plex you were at, especially at the D Division fields.  A sign at entrances to the park would have been helpful and when in the park a sign here and there letting someone know that certain field numbers were here or there could have saved participants time.
  • LACK OF CONCESSIONS:  Food trucks were used at some fields to help with the lack of available concessions.  A good rule of thumb is to make sure that concessions and registration is ready and open 30 minutes before the start of the first game at the complex.  If the tournament has teams begin play at 8 am local time then there should be registration open and the opportunity to purchase concessions by 7:30 am.  Registered players and properly hydrated/fed players are happy players.  Beer sales tents and food trucks were available, but not until later in the day.  However, some 4 plexes did not have any food truck access or concessions for the duration of the tournament.  This would be a good deficiency to work on for next year if for nothing else, the revenue that could be generated by providing concessions at each place of play.

All in all, it was a great weekend full of awesome memories, new friends made and old friends connected with.  Most teams will have stories about going to this tournament that they will be telling for years!  Each team will do its own cost benefit analysis as it relates to their experience at the tournament.  The bottom line is that big tournaments have big challenges and I know that the great tournament committee that runs this event will step up and meet those challenges head on to run an even better tournament next year.  See you in Vegas in January 2016.

 

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Unlikely Accident Critically Injures Man at Sin City Shootout

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Unlikely Accident Critically Injures Man at Sin City Shootout

MIKE PETRACCA GO FUND ME SITE

Click the link above or the header photo to contribute.


Saturday afternoon went the same for most everyone at the Sin City Shootout.  Teams waited to find out their fate in the double elimination bracket and games started between 3 and 5 pm at various field complexes in the Las Vegas area.  However, at Shadow Rock park in the Northern part of Las Vegas one man suffered a highly improbable accident while waiting for his team’s game time.

Mike Petracca, a 28-year-old player for the San Diego Firestorm team in the C Division was struck by a wayward bat that left the field of play.  The bat struck Petracca from a trajectory of nearly 90 feet sending him to the ground where his head also struck the concrete pavement in between the fields.  Emergency crews were on the scene within 20 minutes of the tragedy occurring and after stabilizing him he was taken to University Medical Center of Southern Nevada for emergency treatment.

For Firestorm coach Brian Burnett it all happened very fast.  “I was making the line-up for the next game, so I was at a picnic table about 100 feet away and out of the line of sight of the incident.  All of the sudden, I heard one of our fans (Michael Stewart) yell for me and say, “Mike was hit with a ball”  I was a little confused at first, but then he yelled, “COME NOW!”  So I jumped-up and left all of my things behind and ran over to the area,” recalled Burnett.  Time stood still for over 30 minutes as Petracca was attended to and folks pitched in to help.

“Mike was on the ground on his back and there were 3-4 people close around him already stabilizing him.  I immediately went to his right side, grabbed his hand, and started helping.  The people there were from other teams and all had some connection to the medical field (EMT and nurse were two things I heard).  They had a hoodie from one of Mike’s Firestorm teammates under his head to help staunch the blood flow. I could see blood coming out of Mike’s right ear and his eyes are unfocused.  All spectators were respectful and gave us plenty of room to work without crowding.  I asked if 911 had been called and they said yes.  From there, we just kept Mike stable until the paramedics arrived,” Burnett stated.

Once Mike was stabilized enough to make the trip to the hospital, that still left the Firestorm with a game to play and Coach Burnett forged forward with what he thought Mike would have wanted.  “I knew that I had a devastated team to attend to, so I reluctantly agreed to stay at the fields.  After the ambulance left, I pulled my team together and we had a pow-wow.  I knew that Mike’s first question would be, “Did we win the next game?” so I convinced everyone that our #1 priority was to do that. They agreed and had a resolve in their eyes the likes of which I’ve never seen,” said Burnett.

The decision to stay and play obviously wasn’t taken lightly, but the Firestorm did stay to compete for their injured teammate.  With pride in their hearts and a few tears in their eyes, the Firestorm came back in its first double elimination game of the tournament.  The group from San Diego erased a two run deficit in the last inning to gain an emotional win 8-7.  “When I went to the hospital, Mike’s first question was “Did we win?”,” said Burnett.

The Firestorm lost its next 2 games of the tournament and finished with a 3-2 record, but in doing so they carried out the wishes of their injured teammate who above all else loves to compete.  “He’s one of only a few people I’ve met in my life that I can say has a pure heart.  He makes mistakes like all of us, but my friend said it best when he said, “Mike doesn’t know how to be mean.”  He’s just a really great guy with a heart of gold,” Burnett added.

After the tournament the true reality of the situation set in from a financial point of view.  We can all be thankful that Mike survived this truly unbelievable accident, but even with insurance the bills related to his impending recovery stand to be substantial.  That prompted Burnett to start a fundraising campaign on the Go Fund Me website.  “A friend suggested it me.  I had never really heard of it or used it, but I jumped in and did my best to get something started. I could never have imagined it would be this powerful,” said Burnett.

Powerful is now an understatement in how to describe the outpouring of support Mike’s situation has received, not only in well wishes, but in financial assistance as well.  As of 4 pm central time on January 22nd the Go Fund Me campaign page shows a total of $32,650 raised in just over one day’s time!  This money will go to help Mike once he is out of the hospital and through his recovery, and the amount of money raised is continuing to go up as this article is posted. “He has been overwhelmed by the support and when we’ve communicated to him how far-reaching his story is, he’s genuinely overwhelmed.  I think it’s amazing, because we all know injuries occur during sports events and you expect bruises, broken bones, and the like.  However, to have someone suffer such a frightening head injury and while not even on the field of play has really touched people and made them think that it could have been ANY of us at ANY time ANY where,” said Burnett.

Donations have been made by over 450 people and organizations with money amounts ranging from $5 all the way up to a $2,500.  The Sin City Shootout contributed the $2,500 and San Diego Flicks contributed another $1,000 to Mike’s fund.  Contributions are coming in from all over North America including from the Austin Series 2016 host committee, the Renaissance City Softball League in Rhode Island, NAGAAA Commissioner Chris Balton and the Big Peach Softball Tournament in Atlanta.  Additionally, teams and players in cities from Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Twin Cities, Portland, San Diego, Tampa, Tulsa, Fort Lauderdale, Austin, Dallas, Houston and Las Vegas and countless anonymous contributors are among the softball community supporting Mike in his journey to recovery.

The flood of support for Mike has been awe-inspiring.  This truly is a lesson in how we as humans can positively affect the lives of one another.  Furthermore, this should reaffirm for everyone that participates in NAGAAA events around North America that this is a valuable club we are in.  It is valuable on a personal level and not just for social reasons.  Many NAGAAA members travel the country on a monthly or quarterly basis to be with their “family”.  Someone said once that “we get to choose our family” as we go through life and Mike’s family is out in full force to help him in his time of need.  The Diamond Dish wants to wish Mike Petracca the fullest and most productive recovery that anyone can humanely have from this injury and we cannot wait to see Mike back out on a softball field again, playing the game he loves.

On a personal note, I’d like to say that I’ve been doing this blog since the end of April 2014, I’ve played in my local NAGAAA league in Kansas City since 2009 and I’ve been traveling to tournaments since 2010 and I have never been prouder of being a part of this organization and group of men and women as I have been these past few days.  I hope that all of our readers give to this cause, even if it’s just $5 and I hope that our readers share this post with other people and keep this issue current so that we might have the ability to see this young man back on the field soon.  Seeing the numbers climb steadily today gave me chills and made me so proud to be in this softball community with all of you.

Good luck Mike!  We’re all in this together and we’ll see you really soon!


*Thank you to Brian Burnett, manager of the San Diego Firestorm for his contributions to this article and we wish Mike Petracca a speedy and full recovery.*

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Tournament Spotlight: Sin City Shootout

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It’s Vegas Baby!  The Sin City Shootout Is Upon Us


The monstrosity that is known as the Sin City Shootout is here and teams from 17 states, 3 Canadian cities, 28 NAGAAA cities and 5 non-NAGAAA cities will compete in the open division.  All told, 160 teams across 4 divisions will compete this coming weekend in Las Vegas.  Additionally, the Sin City Shootout is also offering a Women’s Division that boasts 43 teams in 3 divisions.

While the Diamond Dish is covering the softball tournament within the Sin City Shootout, softball is just a part of the entire athletic schedule in Las Vegas this coming weekend.  The Sin City Shootout features 18 sports in all including basketball, bodybuilding, golf, soccer, tennis and volleyball just to name a few.  Tournament Director Eric Ryan is quick to point out exactly what this event truly is.  “The event isn’t a softball tournament.  It’s a sports festival with 18 different sports.  What started out in 2007 with an idea I had to create an awesome softball tournament has morphed into a true winter sports festival with summer and winter sports increasing their attendance and participation each year just like softball has,” said Ryan.

Many teams and participants will arrive in Las Vegas earlier than necessary to get in a little extra rest and relaxation or maybe to get all of their partying done before the games begin.  For those early birds in Las Vegas there will be a Welcome Reception on Thursday, January 15th from 6 to 9 pm at the Tropicana Lounge.  Drink specials and entertainment will be plentiful throughout the evening as Sin City welcomes you.

While there will be the reception on Thursday, the sports festival officially kicks off on Friday, January 16th with the massive registration party at the Tropicana Hotel Sin City Ballroom.  The event will run from 4 to 9 pm with over 7,500 participants attending to get registered with everyone registering getting a ticket and being entered to win show tickets, hotels stays, dinners and possibly a car!  You must be present to win your prize so stick around, socialize and give yourself a chance to win big.  There will be entertainers on stage, a fashion show and a special appearance by NSYNC member Lance Bass and his husband Michael Turchin at the registration party as well.  Friday night’s official host venues will be SHARE Nightclub and The GARAGE Sports Bar.  Both venues will have great drink specials so make sure you keep your tournament wristband on you at all times to take advantage and get yourself a tournament cup for even better deals, they’re only $10!

If Saturday’s games weren’t too much for you, the Sin City Shootout has your fun covered for Saturday night.  The host bars for Saturday night are Piranha and Charlie’s where once again there will be great drink specials.  For all drink special info and other tournament perks make sure you click on the Sin City Shootout logo at the top of the post and check out the tournament website.

Sunday will signal the end of the Sin City Shootout, but the fun will just be beginning once the trophies are handed out on Sunday afternoon.  Everyone will want to be present and accounted for at the Sunday Closing Party at the Havana Room!  80’s pop sensation Tiffany will be performing and a very select number of VIP bottle service tables still remain for purchase.  Now, the beginning time of this event is 9 pm with the ending time of this event (according to the Sin City Shootout website) being 5 am.  Folks, the Diamond Dish wants anybody brave enough to tweet out a picture of any hot messes still hanging on at this event at 5 am to our twitter account, @softballdish.  There is no prize, just a Hangover movie type moment to hold over a friend for a lifetime, because we all know that what happens in Vegas…..is posted to Facebook and then shared through social media eventually.

The host hotel if you haven’t caught on yet, is the Tropicana!  Along with the Tropicana the Sin City Shootout offered a non-gaming hotel option in the Platinum Hotel where a few King and Queen suites are still available.  A total of nine field complexes will be in use to house the competition for the 4 divisions of open teams and the 3 divisions of women’s teams at the tournament.  The A Division will start the tournament on Saturday at Doc Romeo and will then join the B Division at Lorenzi Park where the B Division will play the entire tournament.  The C Division is split into two divisions due to having 70 registered teams.  The Arroyo Grande C Division will split its pool play games at Arroyo Grande and Russell Road.  The Shadow Rock C Division will split its pool play games at Shadow Rock and Hollywood Park.  The D Division is also split into two divisions due to a 64 team field this year.  The Warm Springs D Division will have all of its games at the Warm Springs Complex.  The Sunset Park D Division will split games with a handful of games being at Desert Bloom and the vast majority of games being played at Sunset Park.  Click on the Sin City Shootout logo at the top of the page to find complex information on the tournament’s official website.

The last paragraph of trying to break down the field complex situation should give you an idea of just how difficult pulling off a tournament with this many teams in such a short amount of time can be.  While a tournament like the NAGAAA World Series also has a large amount of teams, the Sin City Shootout has just two days to get all of the games in with more teams.  “In some ways it’s easier with just 2 days, but there is no room for mistakes or hiccups that can occur, such as bracket mistakes or protests.  So while some things are easier, it’s also harder because there really is no room for error,” said Eric Ryan, Sin City Shootout Tournament Director.

In looking at the tournament field that has been amassed for this year’s edition of the Sin City Shootout, the competition will be as fierce as it’s ever been before.  With the upcoming NAGAAA ratings changes the Sin City Shootout is allowing the now “old” ratings to stand for this tournament.  This gave players and teams one last chance to play together before players have to move into different divisions for the rest of this year.

The sports festival, nor the softball tournament itself are associated with or ran by the Las Vegas Gay Softball League (LVGSL).  The Sin City Shootout is a fundraiser for the Greater Los Angeles Softball Association (GLASA).  The LVGSL puts on its own tournament later in the year called the Duel In The Desert, which has been gaining steam over its short life span so far and why wouldn’t it?  It’s Las Vegas, one of the major destination cities in the world.  This year’s tournament also welcomes in a new sponsor.  The Sparxx App is a featured sponsor for the Sin City Shootout offering a chance at love by downloading their app.

The Sin City Shootout is the brainchild of its Director, Eric Ryan and its success is a reflection of his confidence and perseverance in building an event that is without a doubt second to none.  “When I created the tournament I had traveled to dozens of tournaments across the country.  What I did was take the things I liked best about all of the tournaments and put them in one event as best I could.  If you offer a great ‘product’ people will be drawn to it,” said Ryan.

I think it would be an understatement to say that people are just “drawn” to this event.  Athletes from all across North America are flocking to Las Vegas every January in record numbers, more than the year before it in each year of the event.  When asked in relation to softball if the tournament committee had thought about starting play a day earlier on Friday to allow more teams to play each other within a division instead of splitting divisions the Director had this to say.  “With Friday games, that means more time players would have to take off of work, and at this time we haven’t gotten any feedback of that being desired by teams.  If the desire is there, by all means we would do it, but as of now, it’s just not there,” explained Ryan.

The Diamond Dish looks forward to being in Las Vegas to cover the softball tournament portion of the Sin City Shootout and wishes all of the competitors good luck and a trophy to complete their stay this coming weekend.  It’s obvious that Eric and his staff are doing a lot of things right to get this many teams to come out for a 2 day tournament and it looks like the sky’s the limit for this event moving forward with a perfect location, a great spot on the tournament calendar and an awesome administrative staff.


Thank you to Eric Ryan, Sin City Shootout Tournament Director for his contributions to this Tournament Spotlight article.  Don’t forget to click on all available hyperlinks within a post to get even more information!

 

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Dallas Series 2014: Wrap Up

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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.

Dallas Series 2014 - Opening Ceremonies

Dallas Series 2014 – Opening Ceremonies

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.

2014 NAGAAA Hall of Fame Inductees

2014 NAGAAA Hall of Fame Inductees

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.*

 

 

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Tournament Spotlight: Hurricane Showdown

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Fort Lauderdale’s Flagship Tournament Celebrates 20 Years!


A lot can happen in 20 years time.  When the Hurricane Showdown’s first tournament was held Bill Clinton was in his first term as President, Toy Story was breaking box office records at the movies and The X-Files swept the nation on television.

It’s safe to say that times have definitely changed, but through all the ups and downs and life changing events that can occur in a 20 year time span the Hurricane Showdown is still here to welcome gay softball players and allies to Fort Lauderdale.  While the tournament isn’t sold out this year, a strong field will converge on one of the United States’ favorite vacation spots to fight it out for the hardware in three divisions.

Abe Hasbun is the Hurricane Showdown tournament director and he knows why teams keep coming back year after year to his tournament.  “We have great fields, we usually have great weather and along with many gay bars within walking distance of key areas…we’ve got the beach,” said Hasbun.

There will be no shortage of fun this coming weekend in the FTL and it all gets kicked off on Thanksgiving Day!  The Village Pub will host a Thanksgiving buffet for all players and then the bar will host the Ms. Hurricane Showdown Pageant on Thanksgiving night.  Friday’s fun includes registration, Home Run Derby and the 20 Year Hurricane Showdown Party all held at Mills Pond Park.  Saturday night will feature a bar crawl to all of the tournament sponsor bars and the Closing Ceremonies will be held at the W Hotel in conjunction with Gay Days Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

The B & C Divisions will play their games at Mills Pond Park and the D Division will play at Brian Piccolo Park.  Teams are guaranteed five games for their entry fee and two umpires will be used in each double elimination game.  In addition to awarding trophies for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place teams in each division, the tournament committee will be awarding jackets to 1st place teams in each division this year.

The host hotel for the tournament is the Courtyard by Marriott Fort Lauderdale Beach and with the rain out issues last year, the teams traveling to the Hurricane Showdown should be pleased to see a favorable forecast as of now for the tournament.  The tournament is proud of their sponsors including Village Pub, Progress Bar, Rumors, Sidelines, Alibi, Bill’s and Rosie’s and encourages players and fans to frequent them during their stay.  Tournament participants will want to check out the Hurricane Showdown’s Facebook page for updated information throughout the weekend.

In addition to supporting the tournament sponsors, the DD suggests checking out some events being held during the 1st Annual Fort Lauderdale Gay Days from the 27th-30th.  Multiple pool parties will be on the agenda throughout the holiday weekend along with a Gay Days Expo event at the W Hotel.

Good luck to all 56 teams across the B, C & D Divisions in the 20th Annual Hurricane Showdown!


*Thank you to Abe Hasbun, Hurricane Showdown tournament director for his help with this tournament spotlight article.* Don’t forget that hyperlinks in posts give you direct access to information regarding that particular business or item. 😉

 

 

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Speers To Take Over As New NAGAAA Assistant Commissioner

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Speers To Take Over As New NAGAAA Assistant Commissioner


NAGAAA announced on its official Facebook page today that Assistant Commissioner James Williamson has stepped down from his position effective immediately.  Per NAGAAA IOG, the Executive Board voted to elect a replacement and that person is Keith Speers.

Speers is a NAGAAA delegate from Columbus, Ohio who currently heads up the NAGAAA Ethics Committee.  Although it is unclear if he will continue to head up that committee given his new position, one thing is for sure, Keith has a lot of respect for the job that his predecessor did as Assistant Commissioner.  “I have worked with James for a long time, so hearing his decision to step down caught me off guard.  Accepting the nomination was one way in which I felt as a colleague and close friend I could support him in what had to be a difficult decision,” said Speers.

This new-found role for Speers will not only change the look of the NAGAAA Executive Board, but it also prompted some changes in projects he was already instrumental in assisting with.  Keith is giving up his position on the 2015 GSWS Executive Committee to avoid conflicts per the NAGAAA IOG.  “I gave Dallas Aldridge, the Columbus GSWS Executive Director, a heads up in advance of the meeting, because I wanted to know that I had his support, ” added Speers.

Having to step away from the planning and execution of an event as big as the 2015 GSWS would scare most people, but not Speers.  “The Marketing, PR and Communications Committee is so strong that I am confident they will move forward without any interruption.  Look for great things from them.  Their quality was never reliant upon my leadership.  I picked incredible people who are skilled marketers and put them in a room together.  The magic took over from there,” said Speers.

While conflicts of interest have been taken care of and the nomination to the position has been accepted, many will agree that the Assistant Commissioner position comes with big shoes to fill, including Speers.  “It’s emotional.  James is one of my best friends, and I know stepping down was a difficult decision for him.  He has been a pioneer in NAGAAA and LGBT softball across North America, ” Speers said.

Williamson has been a steady leader and innovator while in the position of NAGAAA Assistant Commissioner.  Williamson played a huge role in making positive changes to the MyGSWS website that is widely used at Series to afford participants and fans information regarding scheduling, scores and bracketing.  “James expanded and refined the functionality of the website.  It’s hard to imagine an individual who is more suited for the Assistant Commissioner position,” added Speers.  Williamson also championed having Friday night games at Dallas Series 2014 to showcase some of the best talent at the Gay Softball World Series in ‘prime time’.  “He had the vision.  I sat in the stands and watched as the B teams from Atlanta and Minneapolis competed.  The energy was palpable.  It was electric!  It was exactly what he hoped it would be.  James had the vision of what it could be and he made it so.  It was amazing,” lauded Speers.

Speers realizes that there will be a learning curve ahead of him in regard to his new role.  “First and foremost, I want to finish what James started.  I have promised to move forward with any commitments that James made,” said Speers.  The newest member of the NAGAAA Executive Board also understands that there is much work to be done for the future of NAGAAA.  “Aside from getting my feet under me regarding the day-to-day work, I would like to see if there are ways to improve the ratings system.  Of course, that is going to require a lot of collaboration and input from the Council and Member Cities.  We will see how this goes, but I am hopeful,” added Speers.

This decision by the NAGAAA Executive Board makes sense and should be applauded by the NAGAAA national delegation.  Speers brings integrity and a steadfast fairness to him that the organization needs to keep the transparency that its Member Cities deserve.  This appears to be the proverbial “home run” hire and with this hire the Board is saying that they are ready to build on Mr. Williamson’s outstanding work by bringing in someone with a proven track record of making real and quantifiable change in the organizations that he has been a part of.

The DD wishes a sincere good luck to Mr. Speers in his new position and would like to personally thank Mr. Williamson for his years of service and his openness to allowing media at the NAGAAA Summer Meetings.  Without James Williamson’s foresight and ability to understand that Member Cities being able to get more information about the goings on within the organization they are a part of is a great idea, the Diamond Dish would most likely not be here.


*Special thanks to Keith Speers, new NAGAAA Assistant Commissioner and to NAGAAA Commissioner Chris Balton for their assistance with this article.*

 

 

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Tournament Spotlight: Show Me Showdown

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Kansas City, Here We Come To The 2014 Show Me Showdown


 

Kansas City is having an epic sports year.  The Chiefs made the NFL Wild Card Playoffs in January, the Royals are riding an undefeated 2014 MLB Playoff streak into the ALCS this weekend, and Sporting Kansas City won the MLS Cup.  Now, it’s the Show Me Showdown’s turn to rock the Kansas City sports landscape with the Heart of America Softball League’s second consecutive yearly tournament after rebooting the once dormant event in 2013.

Mitch Simmons is the Commissioner of the Heart of America Softball League and the Co-Director of this year’s Show Me Showdown.  He wants everyone to know that Kansas City is a sports town, straight or gay!  “Ask President Obama, Kansas City is a great place to be, especially if you like sports!  The individual attention and hospitality each team will receive when they come to our tournament is what truly sets us apart from other tournaments.  Our committee has worked hard to put on a well-organized, fun tournament,” said Simmons.

Kansas City has had a gay softball tournament in the past, however the Show Me Showdown was created in 2007.  “It started as a competition between the Heart of America Softball League in Kansas City and the Gay and Lesbian Association of Summer Softball (GLASS) in St. Louis.  The games would rotate between each city.  After a few years, it was decided to hold the Show Me Showdown in Kansas City each year and develop it into a regional tournament,” said Simmons.  After a brief hiatus from 2011 to 2012, the Heart of America Softball League ushered in a new tournament committee with a fresh branding vision, all while keeping the traditional Columbus Day Weekend dates.  “Our focus last year was to make sure our product was of high quality.  We created a new brand for the tournament and spent a lot of time developing a new website,” added Simmons.  The tournament website is one of the best in the nation, if not the best for NAGAAA sanctioned tournaments in North America, check it out at www.showmeshowdownsoftball.com.

The tournament will kick off with an Opening Party and Registration Event at Bistro 303 in the popular Westport district of midtown Kansas City, Missouri.  The event will run from 7 pm to 10 pm.  Players will be able to sign in to get their tournament bags and to get the all important tournament wristband that carries drink specials, free cover and other goodies with whoever wears it over the weekend!  After the games on Saturday the tournament committee has put together a jam-packed afternoon and evening of events.  It all starts on Saturday at 3 pm at The Point where they will have all the important baseball and football games on the TV’s along with some food and drink specials for tournament participants.  Then the party moves for a special show and party at the always popular Missie B’s from 9 pm to Midnight.  Following the championship games on Sunday afternoon everyone will want to end the tournament with the Closing Party at Sidekicks Saloon by honoring all of the trophy teams with their tournament swag!  The top three teams in each division will receive trophies along with tournament sweatshirts awarded to first place and medals awarded to second place in each division.  A free buffet will also be included at Sidekicks Saloon for all tournament participants wearing their wristbands.  The Closing Party begins at 5 pm on Sunday.

All tournament games will be played at the picturesque Frank White Jr. Softball Complex in nearby Lee’s Summit, Missouri.  The tournament is guaranteeing four games per team, two in pool play and at least two in double elimination.  A two umpire crew will be used for all trophy games in each division.  The host hotel for this year’s tournament is the Ramada – Overland Park, which is offering a very competitive $74.00 per night rate with free wi-fi internet and free breakfast included.

The unique nature of the World Series being just two weeks before this tournament would normally spell disaster for a smaller NAGAAA member city, however it’s a credit to the Show Me Showdown tournament committee that this year’s tournament only lost one team overall from last year to this year.  Furthermore, this tournament has teams from two cities that aren’t NAGAAA member cities.  Both Omaha, Nebraska and Des Moines, Iowa will be entering C Division teams into the Show Me Showdown this year.  Those teams added to the rest of the field make for a very diverse field of teams as the tournament’s 15 teams come from seven different states including Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Texas and Georgia.  This is the second consecutive year with a highly diverse field of teams from many states, which is understandable considering Kansas City’s centralized location making it easier for teams from all across the country to travel to the city.

One thing is for certain, the temporary sports world epicenter that is Kansas City will be featuring its beautiful fountains, some finger licking good barbecue and most importantly, some great NAGAAA softball competition this Columbus Day Weekend.


*Thank you to Mitch Simmons, HASL Commissioner and Show Me Showdown Tournament Co-Director for his participation with this tournament spotlight article.*

 

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