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    LGBT Softball Is Back!

    By John Chen–

    Softball is back! After a full year of hiatus due to the pandemic, arguably the most popular LGBT sport has been given the thumbs up to resume play. This is indeed good news, and especially for the San Francisco Gay Softball League (SFGSL) and the Alameda Women’s Softball League (AWSL).

    LGBT softball over the last 50 years has provided a safe haven for players, support for a fringe community, camaraderie for teammates, and family for those who lost theirs. For thousands of LGBT athletes in the Bay Area, softball has been, and is, a way of life.

    Beth Gonzales, manager of the women’s D division team the Vixens told me for the San Francisco Bay Times, “When the pandemic happened our team felt like the rug had been pulled from under us literally overnight! We are a very tightknit, strongly bonded team, and when we had to shelter in place, the team only had one another to lean on. We started weekly Zoom meetings where we played games and even conducted virtual scavenger hunts. We also held socially distancing car lunches. What we did was extremely important for all of our mental and emotional health and saved our own sanity. We are beyond excited that we can play as a team again and we had a number of ‘sleeps’ count down. And now, we are playing! We get to see one another. Hopefully soon we will be able to hug one another!”

    Sheryl Phipps, manager and coach of several Inferno softball teams, echoed similar sentiment. “We had the entire 2020 softball schedule planned out,” she said. “We were going to play tournaments in several cities around the country, including Hawaii. We were going to go to the Gay World Series. Just like that, everything was canceled. We couldn’t do this. We couldn’t do that. We couldn’t even look at one another! Worst of all, we were cut off from our softball family. But we made it through, and softball is back! Our first practice was something. Nobody could stretch, especially me. We were collectively out of shape and made a ton of errors. But who cares? We had fun and were incredibly happy to be back on the field!”

    According to SFGSL Commissioner Vincent Fuqua, “San Francisco Department of Health gave us the go ahead, but we must follow health safety protocols and guidelines in order to protect everyone involved. We are super stoked and ready to go! Although we lost some teams and players because not everyone’s ready and the pandemic is still happening, most players wanted to play, to compete, and to socialize in a safe and responsible manner. We are in complete compliance with the health department and are taking things week by week as guidelines may change at any given moment.”

    SFGSL Board Member Steven Bracco added, “For the first time, anyone interested in playing can be added to a team at any point in the season. We understand some players may not feel comfortable participating right now, but as more people are vaccinated and the city becomes less restrictive in the coming months, they may decide then it’s safe to play. We wanted to give everyone an opportunity to play even if it’s just one game. For those who are undecided or have always wanted to play softball, make new friends, and join our softball family, 2021 is the season to come check [SFGSL] out when you are ready. We look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones!”

    For more information on joining an LGBT softball team, please go to SFGSL online (http://www.sfgsl.org/) and/or search for Alameda Women’s Softball League on Facebook.

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

    Published on May 20, 2021