Columbus Hosts Gay Softball Tournament

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Thousands of amateur softball players descend on Columbus this week. The city hosts the Gay Softball World Series. Event co-director, Brian Lawrence, says 150 teams from around the United States and Canada will compete at Berliner Park beginning today.

In an interview with WOSU’s Marilyn Smith, Lawrence says as many as 5,000 players, game officials, and fans will visit the city as the week-long competition and related events get underway.

Lawrence: We’ve been working at it for two years. We’ve got a huge board. We’ve got a volunteer director. We have a fund-raising director. We have an operation’s director, a hospitality director, a marketing and communications director.

Smith: So its kind of like setting up a small city or a small company/

Lawrence: Pretty much, pretty much.

Smith: How is it that Columbus was chosen?

Lawrence: We actually bid two years ago in Seattle. So we went through a bid process. And at the time we were actually competing against Dallas, Texas for the right to host. What we presented we called ‘unprecedented convenience.’ Columbus just has a real unique combination. First of all, Berliner Park is the largest sports complex in the country. So it is the first time that all of the teams will be able to play altogether for the entire week in one park. Normally the event is spread out over three, maybe even four different parks in a city. So its going to produce a lot of excitement just as everybody can be together in the same park. And then you put on top of that, that its only five minutes away from the downtown host hotels. Everything is just a couple of block walk or a short cab ride from the restaurants and the bars and the nightlife.

Smith: How important do you think is Columbus’ gay community. This is a fairly large and extensive gay community. Did that make a difference?

Lawrence: I think it made a huge difference. And to be honest I think we had to sell that a little bit to people coming in from the West and East coasts. A lot of people even asked us whether there were gay people in Columbus in the beginning. But our community has really stepped up. We actually have over 500 people from the community who have volunteered. A large majority of our financial support has come from within the community. I think without it, I think it would have been pretty difficult undertaking to bring this event here.

Smith: Now tell me a little bit about the tournament it self. How is it either the same or how does it differ from what we might think of as a regular baseball play-off?

Lawrence: It would be exactly the same. If anybody would come out and watch all you’re going to see is a softball tournament. It’s the best teams from 37 different gay, lesbian leagues around the country. The final championship games will be played on Saturday.

Smith: So are there separate final games for women and for men?

Lawrence: This event, its majority men but some of the teams will have women playing on them. There’s four divisions. So there’s A-B-C-and D. The top four to eight teams. And each division will be playing on Saturday until they reach the championship game.

Smith: And what does the winner of each division receive?

Lawrence: A trophy, the thrill of winning the World Series.

Smith: The thrill of victory!

Lawrence: Yes.