Menace in NAGAAA World Series

By Nader Ihmoud

This year’s North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance Open Division Softball World Series was held in Chicago for the first time since 1983. Teams from 37 leagues across the country meet in a different city each year for the event, created in 1977.

The World Series is grouped into four divisions based on level of play. According to the tournament’s website, Group A is the better of the groups and Group D is at a recreational level.

The league is for both men and women, but is dominated by men. The league is also slow pitch, but has differences from the American Softball Association. ASA starts off at-bats with one ball and one strike. In the NAGAAA World Series, each hitter starts his or her at-bat with a 0-0 count.

Since the NAGAAA World Series is an LGBTQ league, there is a limit on how many heterosexual members a team can have.

“We are allowed two straight players to play anytime,” said Jim Kyser, member of the Menace.

The Menace, a Chicago-based team, started its pool play on Aug. 31 in Elmhurst, Ill., beating the Atlanta Sluggers and the Houston Force in Group A play. This is the second year the Menace is playing in the top division. The team moved up from Group B after winning the World Series in Milwaukee as the Chicago Cougars in 2009. Before winning, the Cougars had finished in the top five for four straight years.

“[After winning], half the team moved up and we added a few more guys and became the Menace in 2010,” said James Platt, who has played in the World Series since 2005.

Team Captain Cameron Turner had high hopes for his team after it had success in its summer American Softball Association league. The team went undefeated, 13-0, and took first place overall. They also placed third in the NAGAAA Cup over Memorial  Day weekend.

The team held a three-hour practice on Aug. 27, and also had a short batting practice on Aug. 30, when the tournament began, in preparation for the World Series.

“We haven’t had a game in two or three weeks, but we’ve been practicing regularly and have had some scrimmage games,” Turner said.

Platt believes that because most of the Menace’s games have been at the park in Elmhurst the past two years, they have the advantage over any of the

other teams.

“We’ve played on this field Monday nights for the past two summers,” Platt said. “We know all of the intricacies of the field.”

Even though winning the World Series is the main objective for Turner and his teammates, it is not the only goal.

“I have had boyfriends from different cities that I met through softball and I know 50 guys here from just playing over the years,” Platt said.

John Deffee, of Arizona’s Roscoe Mavericks, said he has met many friends at the World Series who have become family over the years.

Opening ceremonies were held in Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom, 600 E. Grand Ave. Leslie Jordan, Ben Cohen and Amy Armstrong were guest speakers, with an appearances by DJ Matthew Harvat.