Vinnie Arroyo, a longtime, multi-sport participant and former board member of the predominantly gay Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA), has died after a lengthy illness. He was 41.
Arroyo died from an infection in the stomach that he was battling for almost three years, said his longtime partner Roger Serrano. "He fought hard; he had setbacks, but always managed to get out of them," Serrano said.
Arroyo played softball and volleyball as recently as 2012, and was coaching/scorekeeping for a softball team this season. He is the former director of the CMSA open volleyball league and was on the main CMSA board of directors, plus a key member in the formation of CMSA's flag football league.
"He was a wonderful man, a great guy and great teammate. He was very funny, the life of the party," said Danny Tag, of Chicago. "Vinnie was an important contributor to CMSA. This is a very sad day."
Arroyo was instrumental in the forming of CMSA's flag football league, and one of the league's first referees. He also helped write the league's rules.
"Vinnie had a lot of friends, especially in the [local, gay] sports community," Tag said.
Rob Burton, a 2013 inductee into the CMSA Hall of Fame, was softball teammates with Arroyo. Burton said Arroyo "definitely [was an] instrumental figure in CMSA history."
Phil Runions, who is straight yet played in the local gay softball leagues from 1981-2012, was teammates with Arroyo at times and foes at times, too.
"He was an all-around nice guy who definitely will be missed," said Runions, 54. "Vinnie was a fierce competitor who hated to lose; I think that's why we got along so well."
Arroyo played B-Division softball for years, but recently has been involved in the C-Division.
"Vinnie was very active in CMSA, and will be very sorely missed," said Bill Enright, 48, who lives in Uptown and played multiple CMSA sports for almost 20 years, dating back to 1993. He was friends on and off the fields of play with Arroyo, and even was roommates with him for a period.
"He was very jovial, always with a happy personality. Vinnie was one of those guys who everyone truly liked. Personally, I'm very saddened, as I know a lot of us within CMSA are."
Arroyo and Serrano met in San Diego and their first date was on Halloween, 2007. "[We] went to the haunted trails at Balboa Park [and] he was making fun of me because I was holding his arm the whole time," Serrano said.
Shortly after, they were a couple, Serrano said, and they moved to Chicago in 2008.
"We moved all over the place [in Chicago], from Lincoln Park to Streeterville to Uptown, where we finally settled," said Serrano, 32. "He loved sports, especially softball. That's how I started playing; he was an awesome coach."
Serrano plays CMSA softball and also runs marathons. Serrano on Wednesday posted on Facebook: "Today I lost my best friend and the best partner I could ever ask for ... I will always love you and remember you ... I know you will always be next to me … R.I.P."
Enright said Arroyo's biggest contribution to the gay sports scene was the "simple joy he brought to all his teammates and others. All teams he played on enjoyed him being there."
Enright also noted Arroyo's competitive nature, but added, "He kept things in perspective."
Arroyo was a longtime Chicago Blackhawks fan, many locals noted, "and he would have loved" Wednesday's night's game seven overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference semifinals, played at the United Center, Enright said.
Arroyo and Enright watched the Hawks win the 2010 Stanley Cup together.
Serrano said Arroyo also was a diehard Chicago Bears and Chicago Cubs fan.
"I have too many stories about Vinnie to share, with so many funny moments. I always will remember him and those memories," Enright said.
Arroyo grew up in the Chicago area and attended Kennedy High School. He lived in San Diego for about seven or eight years before moving back to Chicago, Enright said. "Every time we talked while he was [living] in San Diego, he always complained about the food, how he missed Chicago food," Enright said, laughing.
Arroyo worked in the customer service/call centers area, as a customer service manager, "and loved it," Serrano said. "He knew how to treat people, loved to be a good leader and manager," Serrano said. "He helped everyone reach their best. Everyone who knew him knows that he was a kind person, and liked everyone."
Mark Sakalares, a member of the CMSA board, only met Arroyo once and very briefly. Still, Sakalares is well aware of Arroyo's contributions. "No doubt a huge loss and he will be missed by many. He leaves a legacy as a sportsman and great friend to many," Sakalares said.