“Our Town”: Local Gay World Series Softball Players Get Ahead by Thinking Small

Husbands, Kyle Dougherty-Rosengren and Tommy Rosie Dough-Ro. Photo by Tommy Dougherty-Rosengren
Husbands, Kyle Dougherty-Rosengren and Tommy Rosie Dough-Ro. Photo by Tommy Dougherty-Rosengren

The differences between the sports of softball and baseball revolve mostly around size:  the size of the ball, the size of the bat, the size of the field, even the size of the game itself…but the biggest size-oriented discrepancy between softball and baseball is how their respective championships are decided.  One of these will manifest in just a few days with the return of the Gay Softball World Series (GSWS) to the Twin Cities.  The event, according to their website www.lightupthenorth.org, is “the largest annual LGBTQ single-sport, week-long athletic competition globally.”  

To say there’s a difference in size between the two title-determining events is putting it, uh, smally:  where Major League Baseball’s World Series is composed of two teams contesting seven games (at most), the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance’s (NAGAAA) Gay Softball World Series is composed of approximately 225 teams contesting over 900 games across 7 different divisions.  The competition will attract approximately 5,000 visitors to the GSWS.  NAGAAA includes 54 leagues throughout the US and Canada, making its professional cousin look cheek-pinchingly petite.  

One of those fifty-four leagues is the Twin Cities Goodtime Softball League which has provided LGBTQ+ athletes and their allies a Metro Area rallying point since 1979.  “Softball is truly a sport that brings people together,” asserts Tommy Dougherty-Rosengren, a thirteen season veteran of the league. Starting out, that togetherness was harder for Dougherty-Rosengren to win than that of his teammates.  As Dougherty-Rosengren recounts, “For over half of those years, I lived in Belgrade, Minnesota, and drove ninety miles round trip to play every Sunday because this league gave me life and made me a stronger and better person.” 

Photo by John Irvine

This recounting runs parallel to the experience of Charles Brown, another member of the local league whose Goodtime begins well outside the Twin Cities—Menomonie, Wisconsin, to be precise.  After years of dissatisfying interaction with local softball associations, Brown joined TCGSL “to meet people in the LGBTQ+ community and expand my friends list.”  Brown remembers his initiation fondly.  “It was amazing how the league accepts and supports everyone,” he reminisces.  “The league is like a family, and they look out for one another. The league is accepting but also very competitive as well.  I wish I was closer to be even more involved with our league.”  

Under the scintillating theme “Light Up The North,” the Twin Cities Goodtime Softball League will host the NAGAAA’s 2023 Gay Softball World Series which starts on August 28 and ends on September 2, 2023.  This Byzantine spectacle will hold it’s games at  Metro Area venues ranging from Burnsville to South Saint Paul and from Eagan to Inver Grove Heights and Woodbury…but this World Series, perhaps in contrast with her major league cousin, intends to unite rather than divide.  

“The NAGAAA World Series is a great way for the community to come together from all around the country,” states Dougherty-Rosengren.  “When you go to a World Series, it is like a big family reunion with friends from all over the county who share a common bond of softball but also celebrating and supporting the broader LGBTQ+ community.”

That celebration won’t happen exclusively on the field.  “I’m not playing in the 2023 series as my team didn’t qualify, but it is an amazing experience as I have played in the past five World Series,” Brown says.  “I will be around supporting local teams and friends from other cities, as well.  Belonging is most important, and the league does that.”  This noncompetitive support is a kind of forward-paying for the kid from Menomonie.  “Signing up for TCGSL fifteen-plus years ago was the best thing I  could have done for myself,” Brown insists.  “It has helped me so much my life understanding myself and accepting myself.”

Dougherty-Rosengren has enjoyed similar self-improvement.  He proclaims, “I am better a better friend, better husband, better advocate, and a better educator because of the years that I have spent in this league and the people I have met on my journey with TCGSL and especially my team.”  That sense of teamwork is bigger than any one team, though…even bigger than the game itself.  “Everyone loves the winning, but the sense of belonging and the fun we have is the best part and it isn’t just on the field–we play off the field as well,” Dougherty-Rosengren observes.  “We go out for drinks, we support other teams’ fundraisers.  We attend tournaments all over the country, and we play with our heart.”

Softball may be defined by the size of the ball, the bat, and the field, but locally, it’s defined by the size of at least two players’ hometowns, as well.  “My favorite part of being in the TCGSL family is the fun, the family and the frivolity with such a diverse group of people representing every color of the rainbow,” Rosenberg declares.  “TCGSL is and has always been a family to me. This family saved my life through a cancer battle and other health issues and it’s a pretty amazing family to be part of!”

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