Stepping Up to the Plate

Dawn Siebert and Ben Monty share how Madison came to host the 2009 ASANA Softball World Series.

Dawn Siebert and Ben Monty share how Madison came to host the 2009 ASANA Softball World Series.

We were waiting outside the Seattle Air-port Marriot. Then it happened; it began to snow. As the flakes fell from the sky, smiles swept across our faces. It had snowed a lot in Madison that winter. We took it as a sign. At that moment we knew we were destined to win the bid to host the 2009 ASANA Softball World Series.

At SSBL-Madison’s 2007 fall general council meeting, the motion was made and seconded: “Should we bid to host the 2009 ASANA Softball World Series?” In other words, should we invite over 50 women’s softball teams to Madison for a week of fun and competition? The response was a unanimous “yes.”

ASANA (Amateur Sports Alliance of North America) is an organization born out of the women’s division of the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association. The World Series is held annually.
We immediately organized a committee to begin putting our bid together, led by Ben Monty (SSBL’s then Commissioner), Dawn Siebert (SSBL’s then Secretary, now Women’s Commissioner), and Amanda Berg (a SSBL player and former UW softball player). During the next months, the three spent many nights together planning how to win the bid.

As part of the bid process, ASANA sends a representative to tentative host cities to make sure they have their bid in order. This is how we met Angela Smith, ASANA’s Assistant Commissioner. Her southern charm can put anyone at ease. Dawn attempted to give her a tour of our softball fields, but unfortunately they were covered under mountains of snow the city dumped on them! Next, we took her to a meeting with business owners and leaders of non-profit organizations, as well as a representative from the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau. The meeting was held in Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin’s office. Angela was impressed and said she looked forward to coming back to see more of the city if we won the bid.

Although Angela liked us, we knew we needed to do more to win. We were up against Philadelphia, and rumors were they had a breakfast presentation planned for the delegation meeting in Seattle. We didn’t have the money to do something like that. So instead, Ben wrote an impromptu script, and on one snowy weekend, we created a video about Madison. SSBL-Madison member Joe Schraven was our producer. We gathered footage of ourselves in front of the Capitol, on State Street, at the Monona Terrace, at our softball field (playing in the snow, of course), and at a Madison Gay Hockey Association game. The video turned out great, hopefully achieving our goal to convey that Madison is a beautiful city in the summer and home to a fun LGBTQ community!

We arrived in Seattle late on a Friday afternoon to present our bid, carrying 30 pounds of cheese curds and over 50 red Wisconsin softball T-shirts. First, we met with ASANA’s Board of Directors. They had already seen our video and noted that we seemed older in person, which we took as a good thing, since they were ready for a bunch of inexperienced “kids,” as they noted later. After the meet-and-greet with the board, we attended a delegates’ reception.

This was when our work truly began. It quickly became clear that the odds were against us. Not only was Philadelphia a much-noted tourist attraction, but they were also something Madison was not at that time—an official ASANA member. (SSBL’s Women’s League had never played in the women’s division or bid for membership in ASANA.) So, starting off, we had two strikes against us. Luckily for us we knew Angela, and Angela knew everyone! Using that to our advantage, we quickly took the divide-and-conquer approach in our efforts to sell Madison and all we have to offer. Usually the first question for us was, “Where is Madison?” In shock, Dawn and Amanda replied, “What? We’re the capital city of Wisconsin. How do you not know where Madison is?” Ben, on the other hand, just replied, “It’s north of Chicago.”

The next morning, we attended the delegate meetings (think gay United Nations meets The View, topic: softball). The morning began with Philadelphia’s sponsored breakfast, which immediately prompted Ben to ask Angela, “Is it okay if we eat it?” While breakfast was wrapping up, Philadelphia’s representatives started a presentation about their city, which lasted about an hour. The presentation was primarily given by the woman who runs Philadelphia’s Gay Tourism Caucus. She discussed the historic aspects of Philly (note their campaign, “Philadelphia, Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay®”) and touted the city’s “gayborhood.” Later in the delegate meetings, Philadelphia did its official presentation. In summary: nice fields with dugouts, a well-known historic city, and easy access by major airlines.

Next, it was our turn. First, we presented our video while handing out gift bags and cheese curds. The bags contained information about Madison, numerous letters of support, the red Wisconsin softball T-shirts, and mini-footballs with “Showdown in MadTown for Series 2009” printed on them. (It was Super Bowl weekend!) To the question, “You’re not an ASANA member. Why should we give you the bid?” Dawn replied, “Well, we plan on becoming an ASANA member after this meeting, and we’re just fun, and Madison is a great place for your tournament!” Then we were asked, “Where the heck is Madison, anyway?” To which Ben answered, “We’re north of Chicago… Did we also mention we’re fun?” The mood got a little more relaxed, and so did we. We each spoke from our hearts about why we choose to live in Madison and what having the Series here will be like. We also spoke sincerely about the support of our community for this event. When the presentation was over, we looked at each other, satisfied, knowing that we had done our best and that it was now our of our hands.

While they voted, we went outside: waiting, pacing, and wondering if all our hard work was going to pay off or if this would just have been a fun trip to Seattle. Then it happened—the snow. The perfect light snow that reminded us of Madison and the winter back home, the inability to show Angela the fields, and all the planning meetings we sat through. We were called back into the hotel, and Stacey Hayashi, ASANA’s Commissioner, said, “Well, it was a tough vote, but it looks like we are all going to meet Bucky Badger in Madison in 2009!” Just like that, it was over. We had won the bid! We looked at each other, shocked, and ran out of the room-calling and texting folks back home.

Since that wintery day in Seattle, we’ve had monthly planning meetings to prepare events for the week of the Series; had meetings with the City Parks Department, MSCR, and other park officials; and hosted many fundraisers in support of the Series. As it turns out, the bid was the easy part. We hosted ASANA’s winter delegate meeting in February and gave an update of our plans for Series 2009. We have also officially become members of ASANA, and now everyone in the LGBTQ softball world knows where Madison is!

Our work culminates the week before Labor Day this year: September 1 through September 5, when SSBL-Madison and the planning committee are thrilled to present the “2009 Showdown in MadTown ASANA Softball World Series.” All events are open to the public, and we look forward to seeing everyone there! For more information, please visit the 2009 Series website: madtown2009.org. We look forward to this great honor of showing the ASANA members and teams what Madison has to offer—a fun, vibrant and welcoming community that we are all so proud of… just north of Chicago!