Batter Up: Talking CMSA Open Sunday Softball with the new league commissioner Matt McGary

Wed. November 29, 2023 8:52 AM by Ross Forman

matt mcgary

photo credit // provided
Matt McGary has, combined, close to 20 years of experience playing gay softball – in Chicago and Houston. He’s back in Chicago for his second run and is now in his first year as commissioner of the open Sunday softball (OSS) league for the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA).

His term started October 1.

“I am honored to be entrusted with this challenge,” said McGary, 53, who lives in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood and, come springtime, will be in his 14 years playing CMSA’s OSS. “Volunteerism is very important to me and having the opportunity to help grow and nurture a league that has meant a lot to me makes me very happy and energized.

“I am excited, eager and whelmed. No over or under, just whelmed.

“My most immediate goal is to get an overall understanding of process and building out the board.  From there would be to begin the design process for the rest of the off-season and upcoming season.”

McGary said his long-term goal as OSS commissioner is to increase the number of teams playing at both the recreational and competitive levels and push CMSA to become relevant at the national level, “which we haven’t been for years,” he said. “Additionally, we want to contribute more to our communities through a Doing More campaign.”

McGary added: “Chicago has many challenges, (including) weather, fields, other options for fun and more that make her unique when it comes to softball.  Understanding how these (factors) impact the player experience will be positive guide in how we cater to the needs of our athletes.”

McGary, who works as a senior manager business systems for Hearst Communications, spent 12 years in the leaving before moving to Houston, where he lived for six years. And his years in Texas definitely will impact his return to Chicago. “I was able to earn valuable experience running the Lone Star Classic softball tournament for three years,” he said. “Running a tournament is very similar to running a league, just in a highly compressed time period.  For both, fields and umpires need to be secured, sponsors are needed, money needs to be raised, promotion of the tourney and the list goes on.  Having done all those things has provided me a lot of resources and understanding of the hard work that must be put in to be successful.”

There were 29 teams that played OSS in 2023, with three representatives at the annual Gay Softball World Series that was held in Minneapolis.

McGary said he wants to increase the number of CMSA teams competing against the best LGBTQ+ teams from across North America.

CMSA had about 500 players this past summer.

“I have lots of ideas for the upcoming season,” McGary said. “We are going to start a Doing More campaign, aimed at raising funds and visibility for LGBTQ+ organizations. We are looking at doing some theme weekends, introducing weekly MVP winners and a few other things that should be fun and interesting.”

Fun is a key word for the league. “We play the game for fun, to compete and, ultimately, build the bonds of friendship,” McGary said.

McGary is looking at options to expand CMSA OSS with the “more experienced” players who also are, ugh, getting older in age.

“International Pride Softball/NAGAAA introduced divisions for Legends (athletes aged 50 and older) with a Legends C and Legends D divisions and this is something we need to build on. We have a very successful Legends C team (Chicago Legends) and I want to build a Legends D team if possible.  Additionally, we are in the early stages of discussing the best way to bring the Senior Cup Tournament back to Chicago,” he said.

CMSA’s OSS will be expanding its in-season and off-season events to keep players engaged, he said. Events could be pub crawls, Mocktail Competitions, bags tourney, Cook Offs, etc.

When asked about CMSA’s struggles in the annual Gay Softball World Series, he said Chicago needs to get more teams wanting to participate, as in past years.

“There are many factors that keep teams from going to the Series, with money and time being the biggest two,” McGary said. “It is a big financial and time commitment to attend the Series, but well worth it in my opinion. While we can’t do a lot about the time commitment, there are things we can do to help offset some of the financial aspects of going.

“How well do we compete (nationally) is another challenge. Since our window for playing is small (due to weather challenges in Chicago), we must find other ways to stay softball ready in the off-season.  So, we are looking at things like Batting Practice Therapy during the off-season to help with keeping that swing in a groove, or finding it, or leveraging the indoor facilities that we have in the area for practices. We need to look at all association rostered teams to take to the World Series when we can.  There are other things we are discussing, but being competitive nationally will take more of a year-round approach.”

McGary added: “It’s never too early to think about softball. While most people think about softball in terms of the time from May to August, when we play, the board is working year-round to build on the prior season. During this time of year, we are working on establishing an infrastructure for how we want the league to grow.”

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