Jeff Sotland, CBLSL commissioner, said an anonymous donor gave the organization $10,000 last month to be used for sending a contingent to next summer’s event in Cologne. The Gay Games, held every four years, is the largest LGBT sporting event in the world, bringing together LGBT and ally athletes from around the globe to compete for the top titles in myriad sports.
This marks only the second time since the Gay Games’ inception in 1982 that a European country is hosting the event.
Sotland said CBLSL sent a team to the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago but hadn’t been considering going to next year’s event because of distance and time constraints.
“I don’t think anyone was really intending on going initially because it is a really far trip, and we have our national championship the week after they would get back,” Sotland said, referring to next summer’s North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance’s Gay Softball World Series in Columbus, Ohio.
Once the donor announced his gift, however, Sotland said association representatives began to crunch numbers and consider the feasibility of participating.
League officials determined it will cost about $2,000 for each member to participate — a figure that would include such expenses as airfare, lodging, uniforms and registration fees — and CBLSL is looking to send about 15 members, including Dr. Alan Barman as head coach, as well as an assistant coach and manager.
“We said we have this $10,000 and that’s a great start, but to make this happen, that’s not where we’re going to finish,” Sotland said.
CBLSL has reached out to players and supporters for donations and has so far accumulated another $5,000.
“Our goal through fundraising is to make it so all the players who go have to really pay the minimal amount. We want to pay for airfares and registration and lodging and things like that,” Sotland said, noting that participants will be responsible for incidentals like passport fees and their own food and spending money.
Deciding who will actually attend, however, has presented the organization with another challenge.
“We’ve never actually been in the situation before, because instead of one team saying, ‘We want to go,’ now the league has been tasked with putting together its own team to send,” Sotland said.
Thus, a CBLSL committee is in the process of identifying an assistant coach and a manager, who will handle logistics such as finding lodging and booking flights, and they will work with Barman to select the players from the list of those who have contacted Sotland by Sept. 15 to express interest in participating.
“They will sit down and say, ‘Here’s who we have, and here’s who we know fits well together’ or ‘These people can be our anchors in certain areas,’ because we have to have leadoff runners, people who can run fast, as well as people with power behind the bat,” Sotland said. “The coaching group will make those decisions and set the players for the team.”
Sotland said he’s already heard from 15-20 players who want to be considered for the team, but if the league can’t fill the required positions needed with CBLSL members, it will also look to other LGBT softball leagues.
“We decided that the members of our league will always have a priority on the team, but if we don’t have enough people for the certain positions we need, such as if 100 people all want to play outfield, we will look to leagues in other cities, first with players who used to play for us,” he said.
The Gay Games’ softball tournaments are divided into A, B and C divisions, representing advanced, competitive and recreational play, respectively. The CBLSL team will compete in the B division, which Sotland said is geared more toward male players. But he noted no female CBLSL players have contacted him yet with an interest in playing.
When the team is selected, which is expected to happen by Oct. 1, players will be required to submit a monthly payment of at least $50 that will be saved for their spending money, as well as to ensure their commitment to the team.
Sotland also said the league will hold fundraising events once the team is in place.
Jen Colletta can be reached at email@example.com.