Hotlanta Softball teams vie for World Series titles

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Ten Hotlanta Softball teams are swinging for the fences at their chance to bring a Gay Softball World Series title home since last year’s D.C. series turned out to be a wash. After all, Atlanta teams celebrated crowns in 2011 and 2012.

Across five divisions, Atlanta has one shot at the crown in both the Masters and A Division, and multiple shots to place in the B, C and D divisions. That means Atlanta teams in the lower divisions will not only have to weather a force of Twisters, Cyclones and Thunder from cities across the U.S. (and Canada) for a crown, they may also battle hometown teams in their brackets.

Teams competing in the GSWS include Atlanta Elite (A), Ambush (B), Showstoppers (B), Menace Reloaded (C), Sting (C), Sharks (C), Flyers (D), Honey Badgers (D), Reign (D) and Silver Foxes (Masters). Two women's teams from HSL, Gamma and Night Riders, compete in the Softball World Series held in October in Las Vegas.

With opening ceremonies on Monday, the 10 teams are headed with high hopes to the hot Dallas dugouts for the tournament

“Atlanta definitely has the potential for bringing back hardware in multiple divisions,” says Kyle Miller, Hotlanta Softball Commissioner and a player with the Heretic Sharks. “We are sending very strong and competitive teams in all divisions and I look forward to our strong presence in Dallas.”

A change by the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance, the group that oversees the tournament, helps bolster that presence in the lower divisions, Miller says. “This past year, cities such as Atlanta that have 35 or more teams, have an extra berth (team) in C and D divisions. This was a huge win for us as we are very large in those two divisions which allows us to send more teams to compete,” he says.

That revision opened the door for Oscar’s Atlanta Sting (photo) to makes its way to the series for the first time. Coach Brian “Bama” McCall says the team battled through heat and the loser’s bracket to secure the final berth in the Commissioner’s Cup. “Our goal from the start of the season was to make it to the World Series in Dallas and few believed we could actually do it, but this team stepped up and played their best when it counted most,” he says.

The squad also won the HSL Spirit Award.

McCall and the Sting are among 56 teams competing in the C Division when the double elimination tournament opens on Sept. 26.

“It will be important to stay in the winner’s bracket as long as possible and our goal is to make it to championship Saturday and see what happens,” McCall says. “The weather could play a big factor because the heat in Texas can be unbearable but hopefully Mother Nature will be in our favor.”

Atlanta Silver Foxes Coach Ron Leathers, whose team will compete in the Masters Division, also worries that his team may be hit with heat fatigue.

“We have several players in their 60s and the heat in Dallas may be a factor,” says Leathers (second photo right). In 2013, we lost early in tournament play and had to play five games in one day, which is very challenging for any team, even more so for us over 50.”

Young or old, with combined preseason practices, season games and postseason tournament travel, HSL players have created more than a game, they’ve created a charitable community.

“I think one thing that sets HSL apart from other leagues is our charity work,” Miller says. “Our membership has raised over $15,000 for local and national charities just in the last two years. Our league members are focused, dedicated, and strive to be what I feel is the best softball league in the country. Not only do we like to play softball, we are an organization who loves to give back to our community, which is one of the things I'm most proud of.”

Leathers, who's played in HSL for 18 years, considers the league his family.

“Just like any family, some you love and some not so much. I knew very few people when I moved to Atlanta, and it’s hard to make friends here. When I joined HSL, that all changed. We have a diverse group, from all walks of life. You will never find a better group of people,” he says.

With such a strong support system, will Atlanta try again to host the World Series? It’s not a possibility Miller rules out for the long term.

“I think it's do able. We had a committee a couple a years ago look at putting something like this on but unfortunately came to a roadblock with field availability. Unfortunately, Atlanta does not have the fields within the vicinity to put something like this on,” he says.

But the league hopes to work with Atlanta City Council to propose additional fields.

“We also will be planning in our off-season putting together a team to go to our city council with a proposal to build additional fields. Something we feel as though the city needs and has the space for. We will look to partner with other city leagues to put this together,” he says.

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