There are plenty of different measuring sticks for success in sports, even at a national tournament like the just-concluded Gay Softball World Series.
Just ask Jack Neilsen, who is a local and national leader on the LGBT softball scene. He’s back from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, host to this year’s event sponsored by the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance.
As the commissioner of the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association’s Open Sunday Softball League, Neilsen helped make sure the city was well represented at the World Series. And as director of business development for the national group – a role he took on in January – he worked to keep the event viable in these uncertain economic times.
The World Series added a couple of major sponsors for 2012: Tanel 360, which makes athletic shoes and accessories, and DeMarini, a manufacturer of sports equipment.
“To land two pretty big sponsors was huge for us,” Neilsen said.
But work like this never ends. While he was at this year’s World Series, Neilsen was having conversations and taking part in conference calls about the 2013 tournament, which will be held in Washington, D.C.
Those tasks were sandwiched around keeping track of the five Chicago teams in the Twin Cities, two of whom earned top-four finishes.
In the A Division – the best of the best teams – the Chicago Menace took third behind the Atlanta Sluggers and the Phoenix Roscoe Coors Light HP2 Toros. The Sluggers knocked the Menace into the losers’ bracket, where the Chicago team was beaten by the Toros.
The Menace has shown steady improvement on the national level, rising from seventh two years ago to fifth in 2011. “We’re hoping they take it all next year,” Neilsen said.
One of the hurdles the Menace has to deal with is the relative lack of elite-level competition. It’s the only A Division club in Chicago and usually plays B Division opponents.
Also taking third was Masters Division entry Chicago Sidetrack, which finished behind the Seattle Strokes and LA Gang Grey. A Sidetrack-sponsored team won the Masters title last year, but the roster has turned over this season.
Change of all sorts is a constant in sports, and Neilsen was glad of one particular bit of it in Minneapolis. Palm Springs, Calif., a gay mecca located in a state that’s a national leader in all kinds of sports, was represented in the World Series after having cut ties with the NAGAAA for several years.
Now that he’s helped engineer those signs of progress on the national LGBT softball scene, Neilsen can turn his attention back to Chicago. CMSA’s fall softball league starts the day after Labor Day and then comes the group’s winter dodgeball league, which Neilsen also runs.
“I get a bit of break time,” he said. “I take a week off and do not think about softball or anything.”
But then the week’s over and it’ll be time to start planning for another season. The hope, as always, will be for it to be as successful on and off the field as the last.