by Scott Eldredge
When the Metro Nashville Softball Association kicks off their Opening Day Ceremonies on Sunday, April 19, they will have a lot to celebrate.
This year, the MNSA is expecting to field 24 open division teams and six women’s teams making it the largest GLBT softball league ever in middle Tennessee. Not bad for just starting their third year.
Community members will gather at noon at West Park, 6105 Morrow Road, in Nashville for the day's events including live music, booths, the parade of players and a Bat-N-Rouge drag game. The day will end under the lights with all teams playing two games. And to think, only three short years ago the league was just an idea.
After playing in recreational softball leagues for nearly 40 years, MNSA Commissioner Kerry Pogue was thinking about giving up the game.
“We were playing in a league which was full of drama and problems and it was to the point where it was no fun and the politics made it impossible to grow the league and enjoy the game of softball," Pogue said. "So, it was time to leave that association.”
Rather than retire from the sport, Pogue decided to organize a meeting and find out just how many people were looking for a more welcoming place to play. Twenty-two people showed up to Pogue’s meeting, and before the 2007 season ended, the league had grown to 11 teams. By 2008, the league went on to add a few more teams, with 13 teams playing in the spring and 14 in the fall.
If all 24 teams make it this year, Pogue says the organization will reach another significant milestone.
“This puts Nashville at about the same league size as cities the size of Atlanta," Pogue said. "MNSA will probably be one of the top ten largest leagues in the US & Canada. Not bad for starting our third year.”
The 2009 season also marks another significant milestone for the Metro Nashville Softball Association. They’ve been accepted into the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance. Consisting of more than 650 teams in 37 U.S. and Canadian cities, membership in the NAGAAA has its privileges.
Not only does joining the alliance mean additional exposure for the MSNA in their recruiting efforts, the NAGAAA will provide training for coaches and managers. In addition, the MNSA now has the opportunity to play in the Gay Softball World Series. With more than 4,000 participants, the Gay Softball World Series is the world’s largest annual GLBT sporting event, and with 24 active teams, the MNSA can send up to five teams to represent the Nashville community.
For Dean Britt, coach of MSNA teams Time and Double Time, all the growth and recognition of the league is no accident.
“This shows the efforts the league has made to get out into the community and welcome people of all skill levels,” says Britt. “Our board has put their heart and souls into growing this league.”
For Britt, all the growth and attention is about something more than just softball.
“While all of this means a lot to our league, more importantly, it shows more people in the GLBT community are getting involved,” Britt says. “Not everyone in our league is GLBT. Our straight friends, brothers and sisters are also welcomed. Their participation shows a great acceptance of the GLBT community in mainstream.”