Story and photos by Tony Contini, June 2016 Issue.
Papago Park was sunny and bustling, and a barrage of crowd cheers and ump hollers converged across the four active fields, as The Saguaro Cup Softball Tournament kicked off April 9.
Out of the 51 teams, 33 traveled from as far as the Pacific Northwest and Kansas City for the annual weekend tournament, hosted by the Cactus Cities Softball League.
All-male, all-female and co-ed teams spread between Papago, Desert West and Rose Mofford sports complexes. Teams across three divisions participated in pool play during mornings followed by double elimination games.
Some players were there to drink, others to have a laugh.
After Daniel Torres of the Diablos Saints hit a big inside-the-park home run he was immediately handed a large beer from a friend in the dugout. A third base coach yelled, “Once you come, listen to me.” Someone from the Saints dugout immediately responded, “I can’t listen to anyone once I come.”
Through all the laughter and beer drinking, there were still serious, competitive moments: first base coach Josh Peters-McBride of Portland’s Bella Boys, shouted “get there” to prospective base-hitters like a drill sergeant.
Peters-McBride, who played baseball on and off from childhood through college, now plays first base and manages the Bella Boys.
“I’m a little competitive,” Peters-McBride said. “My family played sports all through growing up.”
Since moving to Portland, Peters-McBride said he’s met many new friends through softball.
“The best part about a softball community is just that, it’s a community,” Peters-McBride said. “When the LGBT community is marginalized so much, organizations like softball bring a sense of family. These are my brothers and sisters, and we all have something in common. We’re either all LGBT or LGBT and allies, and as a whole we work together.”
This year marked the 22nd year of the tournament. The Cactus Cities Softball League states they harbor the “amateur athletic experience for persons of all skill levels and abilities regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, creed, religion or national origin.”
This sense of acceptance, community and team building was echoed throughout the ballpark.
According to Thomas Kirkpatrick of the Phoenix Grizzlies, who has been competing at the Saguaro Cup for six years, other tournaments tend to center around the party element.
“Arizona is more based in community,” Kirkpatrick said. “They try to keep it more centralized to support local businesses.”
Oliver Allen drove in from Las Vegas for his second year at the tournament. Last year was the first time his team, the Las Vegas Wranglers, played together and he felt they did well.
“We try to play as many tournaments as we can to get more experience as a team,” Allen said.
With a laugh, he admitted that his team wasn’t doing too well this year. Still, he added, less competitive tournaments, such as the Saguaro Cup, are a great place to practice and build synergy.
For more information on Cactus Cities Softball or the Saguaro Cup, visit cactuscities.com.
Open B Division
1st Place: Stix, Denver
2nd Place: Tribe, Palm Springs
3rd Place: Outlaws, Long Beach
Open C Division
1st Place: Greyhounds, Palm Springs
2nd Place: Heat, Las Vegas
3rd Place: Bronies, Phoenix
Open D Division
1st Place: uMad?!, Los Angeles
2nd Place: Bella Boys, Portland
3rd Place: Demons, Phoenix