Heavenly Hitters

1439

Building the Austin Angels

Amy Torres has loved softball forever. Technically, it’s also what brought her together with her girlfriend. “We were playing on the same team,” she said, noting that they met on July 4th weekend two years ago, “but she’s a lot more serious about it than me.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” she said. “You go out there and play on a team and you just enjoy seeing everyone try their hardest.”

She’s been playing for the Austin Angels with Softball Austin, the largest gay organized sports group in the city, for more than five years. Torres and several of her friends formed the women’s division in Austin about two years ago. they were playing in the Softball World Series in Phoenix, held by the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association (NAGAAA), and had seen some of their all-female teams.

After giving it some thought when they returned to Austin, Torres  emailed the folks at ASANA (Amateur Sports Alliance of North America) and told them that she and her teammates were interested in participating in their World series. She didn’t hear anything for a month and assumed that it was a lost cause. Two months before the World series, scheduled that year for Seattle, they emailed her and invited them to Seattle to play.

The trip to Seattle was special because it was a bonding moment for her and her teammates at the genesis of the Angels’ formation. “We had always played together, but after we did that things changed. a lot of them went to that tournament. it made us all kind of come together and take a lot of pride in what we were doing.”

“We were invited to go there as a test team. We went and became part of their organization,” Torres said. Her team is the Oilcan Harry’s-sponsored Austin Angels. Three years later, there are seven all-women teams in Austin.

The most challenging aspect of her role on the team is managing all the different personalities. Some players are really quiet, while others take the game very seriously. “At the end of the day, it’s just recreational softball,” said Torres, the epitome of a laid-back Austinite. “We can always get better. Sometimes people get really serious and lose sight of that.

The women’s team is part of ASANA, which was formerly the women’s division of NAGAAA but split off in 2007 to focus solely on the development and promotion of women’s softball in cities across the country. The annual gay softball World series, held in a different city each year, is the largest gay sporting event in the world. The Austin Angels plan on going to Las Vegas this year for the World Series, taking place in early November. The event is expected to draw more than 100 teams. In addition to playing for a city of Austin team, she serves as the liaison between Softball Austin and asana.

There are two seasons, spring and fall, and each one lasts seven to eight weeks. Does she ever get overwhelmed? Torres seems to take it all in stride.

“I think by having a women’s division we definitely have a lot more women who come out and wanna play,” Torres  said. “It changes the way you play softball when you have all women’s versus a coed team. It’s kind of a different feel. It’s very accepting. There’s people bringing their kids and dogs out there.”
Torres said that a lot of women want to be on a team, but that there’s a shortage of teams. “People start their own team and fund the teams themselves,” she said, so we need more chiefs to get new teams started.”

Torres credits Softball Austin for its inclusive nature in the sport. In other cities, the gay softball league is really only gay men.

“When Softball Austin started, there were some women who helped launch it. So our league has traditionally been a pretty good mix of boys and girls,” said Torres. “When we came back from the World Series in Seattle, a lot of the women who played in the open division wanted to start women-only teams. We started with five women-only teams and of those, four were started by women who were playing in the open division.”

Originally from New Braunfels, Torres  attended Texas Tech for a year and a half and finished up her studies at UT-Austin, majoring in journalism. After graduation, she loved the capital city so much that she stayed. A resident since 1994, she currently works as an interactive producer doing Web management for a few local agencies.

Every player pays a membership fee and there’s a team fee to start a team. Each season there’s also a recruitment day so that players without a team can find one.

Torres emphasized that because of the large amount of interest in joining the group, Softball Austin is able to donate to various local charities, such as the Hill Country Ride for AIDS. The team’s Sunday games also serve as community-building events, attracting a diverse, laid-back crowd. Every Sunday the league designates an after party, held at places such as Rain on 4th or Vivo.

“It’s a big melting pot,” said Torres. “You can bring whatever you want. Have a picnic and relax. Everyone gets together and meets new people.”

There is one division for women. Currently there are seven teams, but Torres hopes they can grow to 12 teams and increase the competition.

“My team is primarily the folks who I spend a lot of time with,” said Torres, noting that her teammates will go out to bars or other places and see fellow players around the city regularly. “I would consider them family because we do so much together.”

The Angels have also hosted poker tournaments and drag shows as fundraisers that everyone can participate in.
“It’s just something I look forward to,” said Torres. “I would hate not doing it.”

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