Circling the bases for its 40th anniversary, Montrose Softball League Association (MSLA) is equal parts sports, social activities, and philanthropy—a winning combination that has made them this year’s Gayest & Gayest Favorite LGBTQ Sports Group.
MSLA is dedicated to the promotion of amateur softball for anyone who is age 18 and older, regardless of race, creed, religion, sex, or national origin, with special emphasis placed on the participation of Greater Houston’s LGBTQ community.
The organization’s more than 30 teams and 750 players meet for two seasons each year. The fall season runs five weeks while the spring season lasts eleven weeks, and both seasons have a place for players of all skill levels. No one gets turned down.
“We have recruitment days twice a year. New players come out, and we host some drills, learn their skills, and then we find a good fit for them in the organization,” said Corbin Strong, MSLA public-relations coordinator.
With four divisions, there’s plenty of room for players to find a place to play ball.
As a member of the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance, the league is invited to send select teams to the yearly Gay Softball World Series. MSLA teams have won four championships so far, and it provides a constant incentive to keep practicing and improving each year in hopes of winning another title.
MSLA’s goal is to provide a sports outlet for individuals to meet and interact with like-minded people in the spirit of friendly competition, in an environment that promotes good health and fitness. And beyond that, the league is a good way to make friends.
“We’re all family. You form a tight bond with your teammates. Although we’re all under the same sports organization, each team has its own camaraderie. It’s a great social activity,” Strong said.
He added that the organization depends on sponsorships, and many gay bars have become sponsors. As a way of continuing that supportive relationship, the teams host weekly events at sponsoring bars to bring business back to the vendors. It’s also a good way for members to socialize after each game day.
Through all the fun, MSLA doesn’t forget the organization’s core value of giving back to the community. MSLA created the Jerry Award (named after founding members Jerry Chaffin, Jerry DeSale, and Jerry Kauffman) to spotlight members who have provided outstanding service over the course of several years, and contributed greatly to the growth and success of the league. Strong describes it as the Hall of Fame for the organization, and it stands as the highest honor bestowed on its members.
MSLA also hosts highly anticipated annual events to raise money for charity partners, including Jocks in Dresses, the Miss MSLA Pageant, and the Lone Star Classic. The first two have a festive drag motif, and the latter is a softball tournament.
MSLA raises approximately $20,000 each year, and this year’s recipients are the UH LGBTQ Alumni Association, Child Advocates, Adopt A Rescued Friend, Inc., and the Montrose Center. The organization is currently accepting applications for next season’s donation recipients, which will be announced in March.
From swinging for the fences to ringing in money for the community, MSLA has hit a home run with Houston’s queer athletes.
For more information or to get involved with Montrose Softball League Association, visit houstonmsla.org.
– Sam Byrd
Favorite LGBTQ Sports Club
Montrose Softball League Association
Finalists: FrontRunners Houston, Houston Tennis Club, Lone Star Volleyball
Favorite Local College or University
University of Houston
Finalists: Houston Community College, Rice University, Texas Southern University
Favorite Local LGBTQ Community Organization
Finalists: Krewe of Olympus, LGBT Marriage Club, TGRA Houston, The Truth Project
Favorite National LGBTQ Organization
Human Rights Campaign
Finalists: LGBTQ Victory Fund, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
Favorite Place to Take Your Out-of-Town Visitors
Finalists: Houston Galleria, The Menil Collection, Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon
Favorite Place to Worship
Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church
Finalists: Bering Memorial UMC, Congregation Or Ami, Living Mosaic Montrose Church, St. Paul’s UMC, Unity of Houston
Favorite Professional Sports Team
Finalists: Houston Dash, Houston Dynamo, Houston Rockets, Houston SaberCats, Houston Texans
Local Business Most Supportive of the LGBT Community
Finalists: Amegy Bank, Central Houston Cadillac, Jenni’s Noodle House, Silver Eagle Distributors
National Business Most Supportive of the LGBT Community
Finalists: Anheuser-Busch, Dow Chemical, Starbucks