If you were raised during a certain time (say, the early 1980s) and lived in a certain place (say, a small town out of a Bronski Beat song) like me, you knew there were only certain kinds of queer: softball lesbians and tap-dancing homosexuals.
Since I was picked last for every school sport, I often wondered whether I was destined to forever sit on the “softball” sidelines and secretly fantasize about Little Darlings’ Kristy McNichol pitching Tatum O’Neal. Likewise, if you were gay, was your identity skewed if you excelled at sports, but stumbled over a Buffalo Shuffle? Thank God we’ve come this far! We can easily create an all-star team of out-and-proud professional athletes that defies every LGBT stereotype of old.
I’ve long since embraced my sexuality, but recently made a riveting discovery about South Florida’s LGBT softball community: There are actually teams for all of us to play — at every level. And, of course, there’s also plenty for spectators (score-keeping, anyone?). These local leagues provide a great opportunity for people to connect in meaningful ways in broad daylight, to truly bond — with or without beer or bat in hand.
Join me on the sidelines to cheer on this season’s remaining games and celebrate at the after parties, and by next season, you’ll be ready to batter up with the best!
SFAAA League (Co-ed)
“We think of ourselves as a softball family,” says Tim Martin, SFAAA chair. While we compete hard against each other, we also celebrate our success and failures together off the field… The bonds are strong and deep, and they continue to be lasting.”
Strengths: Competition and camaraderie
2016 Aspiration: Sending 10 teams to the Gay Softball World Series in Austin, Texas
Stats: The season runs from February through the playoffs in May, during which the 29 registered teams play on Sundays at Mills Pond Park in Fort Lauderdale. Post-game parties are held at a designated after-game bar with free food for players, partners, volunteers and fans. Other events are held at sponsoring bars throughout the season.
SFAAA Draft Pick: Broward Ballbusters, “South Florida’s Clean & Sober Gay (LGBT) and Friends Softball Team,” sponsored by Gary Lanham Group
SFSF Women’s League
Tracy Wynn, commissioner of the Sports Foundation of South Florida (SFSF), thinks softball is so much more than a vehicle for lesbian bonding. “Softball is also life,” says Wynn. “Playing softball can teach… Playing softball will develop the character a woman will always need to succeed in life. The best part… is [in] the relationships she will develop with her teammates — friendships that will last a lifetime. Then we get to play the game of softball on Sunday Funday!”
Strengths: Team involvement and geographic outreach
2016 Aspiration: Tournaments with the Orlando and Fort Myers leagues, as well as a New York
Stats: 14 registered teams (that’s more than 250 players) and five divisions — based on skill-level — play on Sundays, from February through May at Mills Pond Park in Fort Lauderdale. Social events include an annual picnic and barbeque, in addition to the regular post-game activities.
SFSF Draft Pick: Miami Women’s Softball LGBT League. Founders Teresa Valdes and Delma Ayala recently merged their Magic City teams with SFSF with the aim to play in the 2017 World OutGames Miami.