Jeff Butler is looking to score. He’s not the only one, though. As the coach of the Shady Ladies softball team sponsored by Oilcan Harry’s, Butler and his team of Austin- based athletes are chasing the wins needed to conquer the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA) Gay Softball World Series (GSWS).
Butler and some friends formed the team in the spring of 2008 after Butler first considered joining an existing team in the league. “I really wanted to try to start a team instead so a few weeks before the season sign-ups started, I posted a bulletin on my Myspace page to see if any of my friends were interested in playing on a gay softball team,” Butler said. “I had myself and three other guys that wanted to play but that wasn’t enough to start a team. Unfortunately, only one of my friends was even interested, but he was pretty sure he could find a bunch of friends that would play. He posted a message on his blog and on his Myspace and Facebook and 10 minutes later we had more than enough guys that wanted to play – and the Shady Ladies were born.”
The first season started out with a not-so-stellar two wins and eight losses, but the team rallied to finish second at the end-of-season tournament and was awarded a bid to the 2008 World Series in Seattle. Unfortunately, budget and time constraints kept the team from competing.
That fall, the Shady Ladies expanded to a C team and a d team. “Our C team won the fall season championship, and we were excited about our chances for the 2009 season and World Series,” Butler said. “In the spring of 2009, the C team won the regular season and end-of-season Softball Austin championship and advanced to the 2009 World Series in Milwaukee, where we took third place in the C division.”
Massive roster changes occurred in 2009. According to Butler, both squads were basically fielding new squads with a few die-hard exceptions. “The C team finished in second place in the fall 2009 season and the d team finished fifth,” Butler said, “but both teams were getting into a groove as the season wound down and picked right up where we left off as the spring 2010 season started.”
Now competing against other Austin teams such as the Ball Busters, Hot Mess, the Sons of Pitches and the Polar Bears, the C team is undefeated with 10 wins, and the d team is in first place at nine wins and one loss. This early record bodes well for the team as they position themselves for this year’s series. “The spring season is the qualifying season for the Gay Softball World Series, which is the world’s largest annual gay sporting event,” Butler said. “The regular season standings determine the seed for the end-of-season tournament. Whoever wins the end-of- season tournament in each division earns a bid to the Gay Softball World Series, so the spring season is extremely important.”
Hard work is an important component of the teams’ successes, as is Butler’s leadership. “I’ve been involved in the team since day one as the head coach,” Butler said. “I am in charge of all player and coaching decisions for both teams as well as the overall operations.” As he works to aim the team in the direction of success, Butler is dedicated to his responsibilities as coach. “Sometimes it’s very hard to make decisions that you know are best for the team but could hurt the feelings of your friend, but everyone on our team knows and expects me to do what’s right and best for the team,” Butler said. “That’s what is so amazing about our guys is that they all share a common goal and they are all willing to sacrifice their own interests for the team.”
Oilcan Harry’s provides support for the team in its endeavors. “OCH has been a sponsor of our team since the first season and they are the best sponsor any team could ever hope for,” Butler said. “Larry Davis is the co-owner of OCH and I would say he’s one of, if not our biggest, fans and we all love him. There is no way the Shady Ladies would have ever accomplished what we have thus far if not for the support we get from Larry Davis.”
This commitment to team was put to the test recently after a highly publicized attack on two of the Shady Ladies ’ team members. “We really took it to the next level and we wanted to raise awareness of the incident in order to try to catch the attackers but also to make sure our community and Austin as a whole was more aware in the downtown area,” Butler said. “We contacted the news and then Facebook friends sparked the idea of a march. . . which turned into a huge success with an unbelievable turnout and it helped raise awareness nationwide. (It was) truly awesome in the purest sense of the word.” But Butler said the attack has also strengthened the resolve of the team. “As far as the team goes and our game play, I would say that it has only solidified our resolve to get both teams to Columbus for the 2010 GSWS.”