This week, Austin is hosting the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance Gay Softball World Series – that’s the NAGAAA GSWS for short – but its friends just call it the "NAGAAA World Series."
And it has many friends. The series started 40 years ago between two softball teams from New York and San Francisco. It’s since blossomed into the behemoth softball tournament that arrived in town this week.
Nearly 190 teams are playing to win one of five division titles.
Nine of those teams are from here, but the 178 others are bringing 5,000 visitors to town and an estimated $5 million of economic impact on the economy – a fact not missed by the mayor, and the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau President Tom Noonan, who read a proclamation on the mayor’s behalf Monday.
Aside from the numbers, the annual Gay Softball World Series has provided a haven through the years for many in the LGBTQ community. A trip that many plan around and look forward to every year.
Unfortunately, for those visitors, they’ve seen a lot less softball and a lot more rain.
More than six inches have fallen on central Austin in the last week… in August! When planning the event, organizers were preparing for heat indices above 100 degrees… not rain.
If only NAGAAA had someone around that knew something about the weather.
“Never did I imagine that we were going to have something like this until a weather system formed in the Gulf of Mexico a couple of weeks ago and, voila, here it is,” said Time Warner Cable News Meteorologist Rich Segal.
For Segal, weather is his day job. This week, he is also the executive director of the 2016 Gay Softball World Series.
And the weather has not been helpful to him, cutting off almost two days of competition. But after some serious efforts to repair the fields – and a machine that was effectively blow-drying – the games finally got underway Wednesday afternoon at Krieg Field.
The only problem, it’s now double-elimination.
“We lost the round robin, now we have to win every game," said attendee Robin Delgado. "It’s a lot of stress, a lot of pressure now. You come to play, now play. Now it’s time to get it, you know, do it.”
On Wednesday, Delgado and his Long Beach Crushers were on the brink of elimination against the San Francisco Blackout.
That’s Vincent Chavez’s team. He says teams figured out a way to occupy their time during the rain.
“Sponsors have created events for us to go and mingle, get to know some of the other teams that have traveled to come play here in the Austin World Series," he said.
Rained out in a town partially built on nightlife doesn’t hurt, and some of the more important aspects of the Gay Softball World Series are weatherproof.
“It is about seeing each other again," said Chris Balton, commissioner of NAGAAA, at a news conference Monday. "It’s about seeing our family and being together. In 40 years, we have changed a whole lot of lives. And I’m one of those. I was one of those teased kids that had no skill. I found a place. Somebody taught me, showed me and led me how to play."
Darren Starks of Phoenix grew up playing baseball. He’s here for his first Gay Softball World Series.
“Before I found NAGAAA, I was a little bit lost. I really didn’t know what part of the community I belonged to, so I was really alienating myself," he said. "So, when I did find softball and I could get a little more active, it gave me more self confidence and a little bit more understanding of who I was."
But Peter Noss of Minneapolis points out that this is still a tournament with trophies and pride on the line.
“That’s the goal," he said. "That is the goal every single time we come – is to win.”
Winners will be decided this weekend at Krieg Field. The after party will be Saturday night downtown at the nightclub Rain.