Chicago, IL —
Thousands of softball players converged on Chicago for the 35th Annual Gay Softball World Series, a six-day event that concluded on Saturday with a championship game in Schaumburg and street fair in Chicago's Boystown neighborhood.
"We are a very proud board having just pulled off an incredibly successful Softball World Series on and off the field," said Ted Cappas, President, Series 2011. "In one short week, we played 600+ softball games, raised $25,000 for charity and showcased our beautiful city and neighborhoods."
The North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA) Gay Softball World Series, which is the largest annual gay sports event in the world, began Tuesday, Aug. 30 and ran through Saturday, Sept. 3 with more than 150 teams- made up of players who are gay, as well as some who are bisexual and straight - from 41 cities across the United States and Canada.
"It was great to show off Chicago to all of the friends I have made across the country through softball, and the Series organizers made me very proud," Spin Menace coach and outfielder Cameron Turner, 39, told ChicagoPride.com.
The Menace participated in the A-Division and was one of nine Chicago teams that participated, with at least one team in each division.
The top-seeded A-Division team, Atlanta Venom, bested the San Francisco Hitmen during the A-Division championship game Saturday at Olympic Park in Schaumburg. It's the third championship win for the Venom, which also won in 2004 and 2007. The Boston Alley Gators won the B-Division championship beating the Knoxville Cyclones.
The series' opening ceremony kicked off Monday evening at Navy Pier
, hosted by World Rugby Champion Ben Cohen and actor Leslie Jordan. Celebrity guests at the ceremony included drag performer Pandora Boxx, who was a contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race, and Chicago's Amy Armstrong and DJ Matthew Harvat
Tournament play began on Tuesday with action all week in Elmhurst, Schaumburg and St. Charles.
Winning teams were recognized Saturday during a closing ceremony, which was to take place along Halsted St. in Boystown but was moved due to inclement weather to the Billy Jean King Recreation Hall at the Center on Halsted
Representatives from all championship teams were honored by the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field
on Sunday as part of Pride Day at Wrigley sponsored by Windy City Times, Grab Magazine
and ChicagoPride.com, all Series 2011 sponsors.
The predominantly gay Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association
, which runs the largest gay softball league in the world, won the bid to host this year's tournament back in 2009. CMSA has raised more than $220,000 in private and corporate donations.
According to Ted Cappas, president of Series 2011, the city and suburbs are expected to see nearly $5 million in economic impact because of the event.
Chicago last hosted the Gay Softball Series in 1983 when the series had just one division with 14 teams participating. This week 150 teams in 4 divisions played ball.
Four new cities were represented in this year's games, Knoxville, New Orleans, St. Louis and Tulsa.
"I am happy and proud of a great season and a great World Series," said Turner. "Of course, the day after the Series is always a sad one too, realizing that we have to wait until April now for the next season to begin."
Series 2012 will be held in Minneapolis. Prior to the start of the softball competition, the NAGAAA Board selected Washington D.C. to host Series 2013. Championship Teams
Champion: Atlanta Venom
Runner-up: San Francisco Hitmen
Champion: Boston Alley Gators
Runner-Up: Knoxville Cyclones
Champion: Las Vegas Rat Pack
Runner-Up: Boston 5 Star Diablos
Champion: Boston Club Cafe Good Times
Runner-up: Los Angeles Swingers
Champion: Chicago Sidetrack
Runner-up: Los Angeles Silver Streaks