Hit a Home Run with NYC’s Gay Softball League
For as much social progress that’s been made there is still little to no LGBTQ representation in major sports. It wasn’t until 2014 that Jason Collins became the first openly gay athlete to play in the NBA and later that year Michael Sam became the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL. Neither lasted a full season. A lot has happened in the four years since and a lot has stayed the same. While we wait for the first gay quarterback superstar there is a sports league that welcomes diversity whether you’re a top that catches or a bottom that pitches. Who needs the Super Bowl when your team could end up in the Gay World Series?
The Big Apple Softball League (BASL) has been playing ball for over 30 years. Originally formed in the late 70’s, the original twelve teams were all sponsored by gay bars. It had only been eight years since the Stonewall riots and the AIDS crisis was still to come. There was a real need back then to provide gays and lesbians with a safe place to come together but in 2018 is it still necessary? League Commissioner Jeff James thinks so, “It’s more than just playing softball. There’s a big social aspect. For example, I met my partner through playing softball so it’s a place to meet other LGBT people outside of the bars, outside of Grindr, outside of all the social apps- that is one of the big benefits.”
There are multiple teams to choose from including all female teams and co ed ones and you don’t have to have the body of an athlete to play. There are teams that play hard and hope to get to the Gay World Series (yes, it’s real and it’s spectacular), but there are also teams that play just for fun. Says Commissioner James, “We basically represent everything on the LGBTQ spectrum.” However, the teams also welcome straight players too. “We do have quite a few straight players that come and play because they’re friends with someone on the team or they want to come out and support us and have a good time.”
There’s a reason why it’s called the gay community. Gays and lesbians had to look after and care for each other long before they had the back up of straight allies. This continues with the charitable work the BASL does. “We have fundraisers throughout the year.” Says James. “We just did a fundraiser for the AIDS Walk. Our league is pretty socially active as far as being able to raise money and raise awareness.” Every December they also throw their annual Holigay Party that raises funds for various LGBTQ groups.
There are LGBTQ softball teams across the country but the New York league definitely stands out and Commissioner James thinks he knows why, “It’s a huge city and diverse. You can’t beat the amount of talent you have here as far as players and personalities.”