Phoenix Hosts Saguaro Cup and NAGAAA Cup tournaments
By Laura Latzko – April 28, 2015
For the second consecutive year, Cactus Cities Softball League hosted the Saguaro Cup Sports Festival and the 2015 North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA) Cup.
More than 100 teams the NAGAAA and the Amateur Sports Alliance of North America (ASANA) from throughout the country came to the Valley to play competitive LGBT softball April 18 and 19, making Phoenix the first city to host the tournaments twice.
Teams from A, B, C and D open divisions and C women’s division played round-robin games to determine brackets and then took part in a double elimination tournament.
And, at the end of the weekend, a few teams representing the greater Phoenix LGBT softball community were still standing.
In the NAGAAA Cup, the Phoenix Toros won third place in the A division and the Phoenix Ice (pictured above) placed third in the B division. In the Saguaro Cup’s Women’s Division, Phoenix Roster Check took top honors. (Editor’s Note: For a full list of winners, scroll to the end of the story.)
The NAGAAA Cup offers an environment similar to the NAGAAA Gay Softball World Series, according to Edd Schommer, Cactus Cities League’s NAGAAA representative.
Three teams from Phoenix – the A division Toros and the B division Phoenix Ice and AZ Elite – played in the NAGAAA Cup. Other teams came from as far as Orlando and Nashville to participate.
According to Tighe Copeland, a player for the newly-formed B Division Seattle Ball Hawks, because the weather of the Northwest limits the team’s play to a few months of the year, tournaments help the players to learn more about each other’s skills and playing abilities and work on team cohesion.
Because the NAGAAA Cup is one of only a few tournaments for A division teams, Rob Lewis, West Coast Swing player, said it allows A division players a preview of the teams they’ll face in the world series.
For AJ King of the Tulsa Smoke, playing in the Tulsa Metro Softball League and various tournaments allows him to form strong friendships with other members of the LGBT community. King added that, although Tulsa has gotten more tolerant, his hometown is still conservative with limited outlets and activities for the LGBT community.
The local league and tournaments, King said, provide a safe environment where he can feel comfortable being himself and holding hands with his boyfriend in public.
Charles Dollar, also of the Tulsa Smoke, said the tournaments bring together players from different backgrounds who all shared a love for the game.
“It’s the fact of loving the sport,” Dollar said. “If you are gay, straight, transgender, nobody can take that passion away from you.”
Held in conjunction with the NAGAAA Cup, the 2015 Saguaro Cup Tournament featured teams from throughout the West Coast and Southwest, from such cities as Denver, Houston, Las Vegas and San Diego.
Phoenix Roster Check, a women’s C division team with a winning reputation, made a name for itself by winning its first Saguaro Cup tournament.
According to Jaime Hojdila, Roster Check team captain, the team is built around a strong core of players, who ranging from 24 to 50 years old, with a passion for the game.
“We are lucky to have found each other and created a great team dynamic,” Hojdila said. “We enjoy spending time together, playing ball together and overcoming challenges together.”
The Rage, a Phoenix-based D division team, was one of the last to be eliminated from the tournament. Last year, the team took first place at Seattle’s Emerald City Classic.
According to Gabe Uriarte, Rage coach, tournament competition helps him to see his team’s strengths as well as areas they need to continue to work on.
Daniel Czecholinski, who played the Phoenix Hellraisers rugby team before taking up softball last year, said the Rage is built on a strong team dynamic and good sportsmanship.
“It’s the way we hold ourselves when we are losing and winning,” Czecholinski said. “We don’t get down on each other and we have a good team spirit.”
According to David Garrett, an athlete who participated in cross-country, basketball and football in high school, joining Cactus Cities League in 2011 helped him at a time when he was battling addiction.
“I needed to have a group of people who were positive and supportive in my life,” Garrett said. “I found a home with softball.”
According to Uriarte, he was pleased to see the team’s solid performance and progress during the tournament.
“It makes me proud of our team,” Uriarte said. “I know the dedication and hard work is paying off.”
The 2015 NAGAAA Gay Softball World Series will take place from Aug. 17 to 22 in Columbus, Ohio.
NAGAAA Cup Winners
Open A Division
First place: Palm Springs Rounders 2.0
Second place: Houston Force
Third place: Phoenix Toros
Open B Division
First place: Orlando Voltage
Second place: Tulsa Smoke
Third place: Phoenix Ice
Saguaro Cup Winners
Open C Division
First place: Seattle Maulers
Second place: Long Beach Fighting Cocks
Third place: Las Vegas Card Sharks
Open D Division
First place: Long Beach Plastics
Second place: Houston Sons Of Pitches
Third place: Los Angeles UMad?!
First place: Phoenix Roster Check
Second place: San Diego What Had Happened Was
Third place: San Diego I’d Hit That