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    Dedicated Softball Player Establishes Women’s League in the East Bay

    By John Chen–

    In a short three-year span, Wendy Gershow’s vision of establishing a fun and supportive women’s softball league in the East Bay has come to fruition in a big way.

    Gershow, a native of San Francisco Bay Area, started playing fast-pitch softball in elementary school. Like most players, she eventually transitioned to slow-pitch softball as an adult. She told me for the San Francisco Bay Times: “The transition was fairly easy since the games are similar with one major exception. The ball takes much longer to get to the hitter.”

    Gershow’s passion for softball stemmed, not just from the game itself, but from the lifelong friendships made and the support gained that kept her in the game and kept her feeling young. “Now that I am older, I have become a mentor,” she says. “I am now able to do for others what my mentors did for me. When I was new to the GSL (Gay Softball League) women’s division, I had great mentors like Tom Vindeed and Bob Docca, guys who had big personalities, got things done, and supported the [LGBT] community like you wouldn’t believe. When you look at my mentors and their mentors, you believe in the passion for the game and the passion in your community.”

    Living in the East Bay, specifically Alameda, Gershow learned that women mainly played co-ed softball because there was no women’s league. Although San Francisco has a historic and successful LGBT women’s league, players from the East Bay coming as far as Antioch must make that long commute and conquer the dreaded “maize” just to get to the city. Starting a women’s league in Alameda made a lot of sense due to such a playing gap and because the City of Alameda had been extremely supportive in providing the necessary and all-important fields.

    The opportunity to give back to the LGBT softball community and to do what her mentors did for her became the main driving force that led Gershow to start the Alameda Women’s Softball League in 2017. Through countless and tireless hours of putting up flyers, posting on social media, and talking to women during co-ed games, Gershow was able to recruit enough women to form a four-team inaugural league with two seasons, Spring and Fall, per year.

    “Our league is founded on the principles of sportsmanship, fun, mentorship, and passion for the game,” she explains. “Our experienced players help and teach players wanting to learning the game. Our managers and leaders implement rules to help level the playing field. Our league is about having a great time. And just as importantly, we bond as women who love softball.”

    Poppy Ammon from Castro Valley had been playing in various co-ed leagues for the last 12 years. When she first joined the Alameda Women’s Softball League, Ammon didn’t know what to expect. “The first thing I noticed was how supportive everyone was,” Ammon told me. “If I got a good hit, the other teams would cheer and if I did something [that could be corrected], they would take the time to help me improve my game.”

    Ammon was also very complimentary of Gershow: “Wendy works her butt off so that we (women) can have our own place on the field. She’s constantly recruiting. She umpires all the games. She’ll do just about anything for us to be successful!”

    At the end of the day, all of Gershow’s hard work has paid off. In just a short three years, the Alameda Women’s Softball League has grown to eight teams, hosts a 10-team tournament, fundraises, and became a member of ASANA (Amateur Sports Alliance of North America), dedicated to the “promotion and participation of LGBTQ+ women in amateur athletics.”

    Gershow shared these final thoughts: “It is my hope that the younger and new players we mentor in our league today would become the mentors and leaders of tomorrow. It’s the quality of women we have that makes our league strong, fun, and positive. I want to thank all the team managers for their dedication in leading the success and the future of our league.”

    For more information on the Alameda Women’s Softball League, please visit their Facebook page ( https://www.facebook.com/awsl2016/ ) or contact Recreation and Parks, City of Alameda: https://www.alamedaca.gov/Departments/Recreation-Parks/Adult-Softball-Leagues

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.