by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
The Emerald City Softball Association (ECSA), an athletic club open to both Gay and non-Gay men and women, is celebrating their 30th season this year. To commemorate the milestone, ECSA officials got all of their 35 teams together at Purr cocktail lounge for an April 4 season kickoff party.
Each year, according to ECSA officials, the organization seems to set a new record for the size of the league. In fact, 2010 represents the seventh consecutive year of growth for ECSA - which now stands at 35 teams and more than 500 players - making the ECSA the third-largest league in the country. The teams run the spectrum from highly competitive to beginner and recreational teams.
"This year, the ECSA Open Division is celebrating our 30th anniversary," said ECSA League Commissioner Jeff Card. "The league existed somewhat informally for a couple of years before that, but it was in 1980 when Seattle first sent teams to the Gay Softball World Series."
Since then, Seattle has won four championship trophies and over 10 other trophies or top-four finishes. At last year's Gay Softball World Series in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Seattle won two trophies; the Maulers won second-place in the C Division, and the Avengers won second-place in the D Division.
The league plays in four divisions (A, B, C, and D), with division placement depending primarily on player ability and overall team ability. For hardcore, high-caliber athletes, players enjoy a competition of similarly skilled players. For mid-level players, the ECSA provides athletes with the opportunity to hone their skills and work together in a team environment to create success. According to ECSA officials, recreational players are provided with a player rating process to see where they best fit and to ensure they are matched with players of similar skill. In other words, games are evenly matched.
"Gay softball is unique among softball leagues in that the camaraderie shared by players goes across all the teams," Card told SGN. "It's not limited just to the friendship you might share with players on your own team. Gay softball provides a healthy alternative for the participants for building a social network."
According to Card, the league kickoff party is popular with players because of "the level of anticipation going into a new season." Some teams began preparing for the 2010 season last July, as soon as the last pitch was thrown in the 2009 season. "There is a lot of effort that goes into organizing for a regular-season schedule that lasts 11 weeks," said Card. "Because the weather has been so nice this year, many teams have been practicing weekly since January. With all that anticipation going into the new season, it's simply a lot of fun to see all the new teams and new players in the league each year."
In fact, according to ECSA officials, since the regular season ended last year, Open Division teams have played in a record number of tournaments hosted by other Gay softball leagues around the country. "We've sent teams to tournaments in Vancouver, B.C.; San Diego and Palm Springs, California; and Las Vegas, Nevada," Card told SGN.
On July 3-4, ECSA will be hosting the Emerald City Classic, the league's tournament targeting Gay teams from around the country. "While many tournaments charge a $400 entry fee, the ECSA has slashed the tournament entry fee this year to only $50," said Card. "We've won kudos from Outsports.com, the national Gay sports website, for our efforts to make softball affordable this year."
Card says that their efforts are paying off. ECSA has received a record number of early registrations and is looking to provide a very successful event for the LGBT community.
Beyond the excitement of regular game play, ECSA is involved in the community and special programs. This year, ECSA officials are looking to purchase equipment to improve the safety of their ball fields. "We're working with the City of Seatac to purchase breakaway bases, which can help reduce the risk of injury from sliding, as well as fence caps, which are placed along the foul line to protect outfielders who try to field foul balls," Card said.
There is no question that 2010 promises to be an exciting year for ECSA athletes and fans alike. For more information about ECSA, including game schedules and league FAQs, visit the organization online at www.emeraldcitysoftball.org.
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