The recently completed Gay Softball World Series found several returning players and some new ones, too. We wanted to find out the thoughts of some of the new players having this first-time experience of playing for a trophy and medals.

With help from some of NAGAAA’s more established veterans, three players were selected. Say hello to Ryan Buchanan from Nashville, Michael Stakem from Washington, D.C., and Greg Thoennes from Austin.

Michael has played gay softball since 2011 when he played in DC’s 2011 Magic Tournament. He currently played for the Shockers, a D team. He pinpointed for me a thought that was shared by so many players, veterans and rookies alike. “I didn’t just have a good time, I had a great time! The GSWS met and exceeded my expectations.”

His team tied for 25th in the D Division but it was more than just softball for this player. “It’s difficult to pin down what I most enjoyed about the GSWS. If I had to distill it to one phrase I would choose ‘instant camaraderie’. With every single new person I met during the week I had an immediate connection: a shared love for the sport of softball.”

There’s that family theme again, expressed in Columbus by Commissioner Chris Balton after Opening Ceremonies.

Greg played for the Austin Pride Royals, also a D team. Greg is new not only to the GSWS but to gay softball. He took this first year to learn the game and the commitment involved not only for the GSWS but for the team’s entire season. I should note that Greg is a part of the league I serve, Softball Austin. So, I had more time to spend with him.

His passion flowed during our post-tournament conversation. “The GSWS was absolutely astounding. From the caliber of teams we played right down to the different activities and ceremonies.” He took a moment to share a few non-softball thoughts. “I loved the flow of things, the ease of registration, the information tables that listed the places to visit and things to do around the area.”

Having played in Austin or dirt and grass “I enjoyed playing on the turf fields and having two Blues to make calls.” He also echoed a sentiment shared by everyone on being able to watch their friends as he was able to watch the Pride Reign (C Division). Calling it an experience he will not forget, “it was an amazing privilege to be able to attend with this being my very first season ever playing softball. Columbus definitely put on a great show.

Ryan started playing gay softball in March, having moved to Nashville in January. The support from teams from his home town was a big plus for Ryan, who played for the Nashville Music City Stallions. “The thing that really stood out in my mind was the support from the other Nashville teams while we were playing. At the World Series, our fans and the supporters from the other three teams really did help us remain strong and win some key games to keep us in the tournament. It was an incredible feeling to get up to bat or make a good play on the field and actually hear the ‘crown go wild.’”

He, too, felt his expectations before travelling to Columbus were exceeded during the week. “The tournament and the events were extremely well-organized and thought out.”

But it was the chance to meet new people that Ryan spoke about the most. “I had the opportunity to meet several different players and fans from teams all over the country and, while softball was the ice-breaker, the conversations almost always turned to much more meaningful topics.” The connection that he made with people allowed him to have “built relationships that will last long past the 2015 World Series.”

He closed with a thought that I would imagine nearly everyone had who made the pilgrimage to Columbus. “I can’t wait for the 2016 World Series!”

This post was written by Rich Segal, NAGAAA Mar Com Committee