Thousands expected at Gay Softball World Series

August 30, 2011 4:21:02 AM PDT
Athletes from around the country will be competing in the 35th annual Gay Softball World Series in the Chicago area.

NAGAAA, or the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance, organized the week-long event, which kicks off with opening ceremonies Monday night in the Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier. Organizers say this is one of the largest sporting events in the LGBT community.

"We couldn't really comprehend the consequences of what would happen. We wanted to play softball and we created an organization to do that," said Warren Schapel, Toronto softball player.

The games will take place at three separate complexes in Schaumburg, Elmhurst and St. Charles. Organizers say the games are expected to bring in more than $5 million in business to the city.

"It's great for our local sports community, our LGBT sports community, because it just brings better awareness , better exposure to potential sponsors and makes our league stronger and richer. But it's also important for the city at large, bringing people into the city. The economic impact is huge," said Ted Cappas, 2011 series president.

Nine Chicago teams are participating with at least one team in each division. The softball tournament is expected to draw 150 teams from 41 cities in North American in five divisions.

"The LGBT community is recognized for our athleticism, and we get to come together as a big unit in the city and have fun," said Tim Tellez, Los Angeles softball player.

About 4,000 players and fans from across the country are attending the games. They registered Monday morning at the Intercontinental Hotel in Rosemont.

"I want to get my ring, pad my resume for the Hall of Fame," said Marcus Carter, Atlanta softball player. "It's my first world series so I'm extremely excited. We got a great team," said softball player Bill Attaway. Patrick Keegan, 46, of Chicago, came out when he was 28-years-old. He has been away from the games for the past 10 years and decided to come back.

"I've got a second place, a third place and a fourth place finish in all the world series I've played in. I'm getting a first this year," Keegan said.

Besides softball there are all sorts of social activities taking place, including a talent show on Wednesday at the Hyatt House. The money raised from all of these activities will go to charity.

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