When the third baseman for the C3 Division Sidetrack Squirrels softball team caught the line drive, the celebration started. The Squirrels ran through the playoffs on Sunday, Aug. 18, to capture the playoff league championship in the eight-team division, ending the upset hopes of the Halsted Hustlers.
Four other champions also were crowned Sunday afternoon, ending the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA) open division season, played over the past four months at Clarendon and Margate fields.
"The Hustlers were the No. 6 seed [in the playoffs,] so the fact they advanced to the championship game, that's awesome. It shows teams that anything can happen on any given day, and shows that you don't have to be the No. 1 seed to, potentially, win the championship," said Jack Neilsen, CMSA open division league commissioner.
The Shirts Illustrated MasterBatters needed two games to capture the championship in the eight-team, round-robin C2 Division, defeating the Sidecar Pamas for the title. This was lone championship series that went to the if-game to determine the champion.
"Win or lose, summer softball is always my favorite CMSA sport," said Jeremy Bressman of the MasterBatters, who was playing his ninth season of open division softball. "[We] have a solid group of guys that are friends on and off the field, and our first priority is to go out there and have a good time. But winning both the regular-season and the playoffs was icing on the cake. Everyone played well and it was truly a team effort."
Chicago is the largest league overall in the country among the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA) cities. Formed in 1977, NAGAAA now has more than 800 teams in 45 leagues across the U.S. and Canada. NAGAAA hosts the annual Gay Softball World Series, which starts Tuesday, Aug. 27, in Washington D.C., with more than 5,000 players expected on 157 teams.
Four Chicago teams will be playing in the Washington D.C.
"Overall, I thought it was a very successful season," Neilsen said. "We were blessed with only one rained out [week] and overall, everything went smooth this season.
"I saw a social growth this season, and that's very important for the league. There also was a very high level of competition this season. All of our divisions were pretty evenly matched. Splitting the C Division into three divisions made for fair, equal play for all. It was a level playing field in all divisions, and I think people really enjoyed themselves this season."
There were about 750 players this season in the predominantly gay male open division, which features a 20-game regular-season. Chicago boasts one top-tiered A-Division team, the Chicago Menace, and two B-Divisions. The Roadhouse 66 Dragons captured the B-Division regular-season championship.
Both the Menace and the Dragons will be playing in the World Series.
In the seven-team C1 Division, Angel's Envy defeated 3160/Tanel Chicago Express for the league championship, yet it will be the Express heading east for the World Series.
The North End Pounders defeated the Jackhammer Jox for the D1 Division title, while the SOckFOrd Peaches captured the D2 Division championship, defeating the Howard Brown Elephants.
"The playoffs overall were successful and teams had a really good time," Neilsen said. "I think one of my highlights this season was the D2 Division team that I coached, the Bad News Beards, sponsored by Scruff. The team struggled last season, winning only two games. But this year, the team finished [the regular-season with a record of] 9-11. That's huge for them, a morale booster."
CMSA Open Division Champions:
B Division: Roadhouse 66 Dragons (regular-season)
C1 Division: Angel's Envy
C2 Division: Shirts Illustrated MasterBatters
C3 Division: Sidetrack Squirrels
D1 Division: North End Pounders
D2 Division: SOckFOrd Peaches
Chicago's four-team contingent also includes the C-Division Center On Halsted Crush.
"I think the Chicago teams will do very well in the World Series," Neilsen said. "I think we can have a champion in all three divisions."
Neilsen is the business development director for NAGAAA and also will be playing for the Dragons, marking his eighth World Series appearance.
"The World Series is all about the camaraderie; it's like a family reunion, seeing players who you might only see once a year. It's such an amazing social event, beyond the on-field competitiveness.
"This event is huge for so many, with friendships built at the World Series that last a lifetime."
The Amateur Sports Alliance of North America (ASANA) runs the three-division women's World Series, held this week in Portland. There are no B-Division teams from Chicago, yet the C-Division is represented by the Free Agents, while Raw Energy is participating in the D-Division.
The championship games will be played Saturday, Aug. 24.
Chicago's NAGAAA World Series Teams:
A-Division: Chicago Menace
Players to watch: Cameron Turner, James Platt
B-Division: Roadhouse 66 Dragons
Players to watch: Seth Cooper, Frank Kisner
C-Division: 3160/Tanel Chicago Express
Players to watch: Ernesto Mejil, Steve Renteria
C-Division: Center On Halsted Crush
Players to watch: Olin Eargle, Tom Alcock
The ChiTown Softball Classic returns this yearwith new dates and locations.
Formerly held over July 4 weekend, the event will now be held Sept. 14-15, at Berens Park Fields in suburban Elmhurst.
"We moved it [to September] because there are so many other tournaments across the country July 4th weekend," Neilsen said.
The tournament will feature C and D Division play, with likely 12 teams per division.
CMSA's fall softball league is a two-division, 11-team league that plays Thursday nights, starting Sept. 5, at Pottawatomie Park on the north side.
Teams will play eight regular-season games, plus playoffs.
"It's a fun league, much more relaxed than the Sunday open division season," Neilsen said. "Sunday softball is much more serious than Thursday, though the competitive level is still there on Thursdays, too, but with a much more relaxed atmosphere."
In addition, the 2013 Women's Fall Softball League (WFS) begins Sept. 7 and runs through Oct. 26 (weather permitting). Game will be played from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the two fields at Pottawattomie Park (7340 N. Rogers Ave.).
National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) Championship
The nation's top professional softball teams will compete in the 2013 National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) Championship series, scheduled for Aug. 22-24 at The Ballpark at Rosemont.
"The NPF is so thrilled to be back in Rosemont for this year's Championship Series," NPF Commissioner Cheri Kempf said in a statement. "We are going to have a very exciting competition this year, especially as the audience for women's fastpitch softball continues to grow."
The NPF Championship Series is the league's hallmark event and will feature the USSSA Pride, Chicago Bandits, NY/NJ Comets and the Akron Racers. The league features talented players, including Olympic medalists on each team competing in the playoff/tournament format.
The event will feature such star players as Megan Wiggins (Bandits), Gionna DiSalvatore (USSSA), Cat Osterman (USSSA), and Monica Abbott (Bandits), among others.
The Bandits and the Pride have been gunning for top honors all season, with the Bandits carrying a 36-12 record, while the Pride stand at 34-14. The Pride features out catcher Lauren Lappin.
ESPN2 will carry a live broadcast of Saturday's first game at 4 p.m.
Tickets for the 2013 National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) Championship Series can be purchased in advance through the NPF and team websites, or via phone. Tickets can also be purchased on the day of the game at the stadium box office. The phone number for tickets is 615-232-2900 and the website is www.profastpitch.com .
CMSA Women's Softball
The top-tiered A-Division of CMSA's women's softball season was a two-team race for the regular-season crown as Last Call and Mood Swings were fighting for honors.
The 10-team B-Division featured the talented Raw Energy Major club.
The 16-team C-Division was a bottleneck at the top with Bat Breakers, Celtic Softball Club and Raw Energy Minors in the hunt for top honors.
The six-team D-Division was led by Raw Energy Rookies.
Women's Softball Playoffs Results:
A-Division: Mood Swings defeated Last Call
B-Division: Raw Energy Majors over Free Agents
C-Division: Bat Breakers over Raw Energy Minors
D-Division: Pat's Posse claimed the title over Steel Reserve