ATL gay softball leagues roll into fall season

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imageBy September’s end, all the gays who like to pitch or catch — or both — will be at it again on softball fields across the ATL with three slightly different leagues at play.

Decatur Women’s Sports League has already thrown the first pitch of their fall softball season that started Friday. Hotlanta Softball League kicks off Fall Ball on Sundays beginning Sept. 27, and the all-new Southern Softpaw League rolls out their competition-meets-charity season of Saturdays on Sept. 26.

Hotlanta Softball League takes their short fall season to mix it up a bit. Sure, players still enjoy a little friendly competition, but they enter a recreational-style potluck, returning to the ball fields in Piedmont Park each Sunday to find out who they’re going to play with.

The six-Sunday HSL lineup, with Opening Day set for Sept. 27, is a break from the longer, more intense spring/summer season that sends teams to the Gay World Series each year, says Art Davenport, HSL’s Open Division secretary.

“We mix our novice players with our experienced players so that people can get to know each other, as well as provide some training to improve their game,” Davenport says. “Fall Ball brings in a lot of new people who haven’t played in years, as well those regular players who just can’t go cold-turkey for a whole season.”

The league is planning on nine makeshift teams for Sundays this year. In addition to the Sunday games scheduled, Fall Ball also includes a social aspect. After each game day, players head over to that week’s host bar. For the first year, Blake’s on the Park joins the fun, by hosting an opening day party, the Oct. 11 post-game cocktails, and the closing day after-party.

HSL’s Oct. 25 games are extra special. Tthe Armorettes serve as celebrity umpires and will officiate in full regalia. The closing party that night is at Frogs Cantina.

The new Southern Softpaw League throws its first pitch ever into Atlanta’s gay softball mix on Sept. 26. Founder Ken DeLeon, who is also coach of HSL’s Sharks team, wanted to complement HSL’s Fall Ball Sundays with a new set of Saturday games that let regular-season teams continue to hone their skills as a unit.

Like other leagues, DeLeon wants to keep the fun in “fun and games.” An opening party at the Heretic, as well as a training practice are scheduled for this Saturday, Sept. 19. Softpaw’s Opening Day games begin Sept. 26.

But DeLeon was mostly driven to create a league focused on giving back. Some 40 animal charities will benefit from Softpaw’s season.

“I wanted to use the combination of our love of softball and a love of animals and make a difference,” he says. “We want this to be charity minded.”

With about eight teams for their first season — with both Just for Fun and more competitive divisions — DeLeon expects the league to grow in subsequent years.

“I have some great guys behind me,” he says. “They’re capable and just good people who want to play off-season games in a gay-friendly environment where teams can continue to play together and strengthen their rosters.”

Both HSL and Southpaw say that they encourage spectators to come enjoy the cooler weather, even if they don’t play the game. In the immortal words of Eve Arden from “Grease,” Davenport reiterates: “If you can’t be an athlete, be an athletic supporter.”

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