MINNEAPOLIS — More than 4,500 athletes are in town to participate in one of the largest annual gay sporting events in the world. On Monday, opening ceremonies are underway for the 2023 Gay Softball World Series.
It’s also a big first for this softball tournament, as the Minnesota Twins are the first Major League Baseball team to partner with the event in its 46-year history.
In all, 225 teams from 54 member cities make up the Gay Softball World Series.
Day 1 in the Twin Cities is filled with registration and information about the league’s history and the impact it has had on every city that has hosted this annual event.
For Dirk Nettles, this is more than a softball tournament; it’s like a family reunion.
“I started playing in 1991. I had come back from the military and needed an outlet, and I found gay softball,” Nettles said. “You come back and you see all your friends. I’ve known some of these guys from day one.”
The North American Gay Amateur Atheltic Alliance (NAGAAA) was founded in 1977. The organization is made up of men and women dedicated to providing opportunity and access for the LGBTQ+ community to play organized competitive softball in safe environments.
The Twin Cities previously hosted this tournament in 1996 and 2012.
Organizers pride themselves on how the World Series of Gay Softball has opened eyes to the truth that, despite differences in sexuality, on the field of play, they compete with the same knowledge, ability and fire.
“We need this younger generation to get involved at a high level, to bring new ideas to the forefront, not only our organization, but to grow as a society as well,” NAGAAA commissioner Jeff Sloan said.
Games will be played in multiple locations, from Inver Grove Heights to Woodbury, from Burnsville to Eagan. The athletes are ready to battle for a title while working to give kids of all ages an opportunity to enjoy the sport.
The Twins will celebrate and host “Light up the North Night” at Target Field on Tuesday as they take on the Cleveland Guardians. The team says it’s their way of standing behind diverse communities, proof that sports brings communities together.