By Mark Rosen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On a beautiful, early summer day in Eagan, the Twin Cities Good Time Softball League (TCGTSL) is hosting its biggest tournament of the year.

There are 48 teams from around the country battling it out over two days.

“We have teams from Washington, D.C., Boston, Dallas, Des Moines, Kansas City, Orlando,” said Greg Fedio, TCGTSL commissioner. “People do play a pretty decent level of softball.”

twin cities goodtime softball league WCCO Viewers Choice For Best Softball League In Minnesota

(credit: CBS)

And there’s no doubt about that. But you might see or hear some things at some of these games that you might not see at your average softball tilt.

“I think that’s one of the best things about our league is we’re really a family more than a softball league,” Fedio said. “This year we have 37 teams. We are there for each other, we’re there for the community, and not just the gay community.”

In the present context, a gay softball league makes perfect sense to most of us. But if we look back almost 40 years to 1979, such a league would have been a dicey proposition at best.

“The concept was really that there was not a safe place for gays in sports,” Fedio said.

In fact, the word “gay” in those days was somewhat new to our lexicon, and it was just another four-letter word to many.

“That did not fly with about half of the membership of the league who simply said that if the word ‘gay’ was in the name of this league, they would not play,” said umpire Ken Johnson.

tcgtsl WCCO Viewers Choice For Best Softball League In Minnesota

The team in 1979 (credit: CBS)

Johnson has been with the league every step of the way, and he recalls a public relations event with the Minneapolis Police Department that was the turning point.

“Oh my, it opened doors. It really did,” he said. “It took a situation that was confrontational in a lot of lot of different ways and made it on the field of play. And we learned things from the police and I think it came back the same way.”

Out of that game was born a softball league with a culture of openness and acceptance.

“What I like about it is the league welcomed everyone,” said player Gary Bingner. “I wasn’t discriminated against because I was not gay.”

No matter what words you use to identify yourself, you’ll find a level playing field.

“And that’s why you call it the Goodtime Softball League. It’s not just a clever name,” said player Tim Mulhair. “It’s a good time.”

The league has playoffs this weekend in Eagan which will determine who moves on to the national competition.

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