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updated: 7/28/2011 10:37 AM

Gay Softball World Series is coming to suburbs

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  • A  2011 Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association softball game played at Margate Park in Chicago. Seven area teams have advanced to the World Series.

      A 2011 Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association softball game played at Margate Park in Chicago. Seven area teams have advanced to the World Series.
    Courtesy of Bret Grafton

  • A 2011 CMSA softball game at Margate Park.

      A 2011 CMSA softball game at Margate Park.
    Courtesy of Bret Grafton

  • Aaron Brost, formerly of Naperville, pitches for the Downtown Bar & Lounge team in the CMSA B-Division.

      Aaron Brost, formerly of Naperville, pitches for the Downtown Bar & Lounge team in the CMSA B-Division.
    Photo by Ross Forman

 
By Ross Forman

Aaron Brost lived the "Glee" life at Naperville Central High School before graduating in 1992.

He had a large group of friends, mainly from the chorus.

"We had an amazing time, especially preparing for concerts and musicals," he said.

He also was captain of the speech team and devoted to chorus, show choirs and musicals.

But he was also bullied, primarily by the jocks, who would taunt him pretty much anytime -- in the hall during passing periods, at lunch, in gym class.

"They would dump my books and call me (anti-gay slurs) to my face," Brost said. "I would just take it. I never stood up for myself or considered fighting back, physically or verbally."

Not surprisingly, Brost graduated from Naperville Central and the University of Iowa without doing much in the way of sports, even though he really liked baseball.

"I was intimidated to play sports in high school -- and couldn't envision myself 'hanging out' socially with the guys on the baseball team," he said. "I just didn't think I fit in, and a big part of that was knowing I was gay and anticipating a negative reaction from others.

"That's one of my greatest life lessons -- never underestimate people because they just might surprise you," said Brost, who came out to friends and family in 1997.

"People who I thought would have shut me out of their lives for being gay have welcomed me with open arms."

He has since moved back to Chicago, where he is a single 37-year-old living in Lincoln Park, a Cubs fan and president of Ro-Bro Marketing & Public Relations Inc. He's also one of the best pitchers in the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association, the predominately gay league that plays on the North Side of Chicago.

And next month, he will join about 4,000 athletes and fans from around North America -- gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and some straight, too, -- for the 35th annual Gay Softball World Series, a six-day, multilevel tournament that will be played at multi-field complexes in Schaumburg, St. Charles and Elmhurst starting Aug. 30.

The World Series will have 175 teams competing from across the U.S. and Canada. Brost's team is one of seven representing Chicago, and this is the first time Chicago has hosted the tournament since 1983.

The event will start with opening ceremonies at Navy Pier at 5 p.m. Aug. 29. Games will be played Aug. 30-Sept. 3 at Olympic Park, 1675 E. Old Schaumburg Road, in Schaumburg; Berens Park in Elmhurst, 493 Oaklawn Ave.; and the East Side Sports Complex, 3565 Legacy Blvd., St. Charles. The championship games will be played Sept. 3 in Schaumburg, followed by an awards ceremony and street fair from 4-10 p.m. in Boystown in the Lakeview neighborhood, near Wrigley Field.

Brost discovered his interest in sports when he was struggling with the decision to come out and an acquaintance invited him onto his CMSA softball team. Softball led to bowling, volleyball and tennis.

"Along the way, I have met an incredible group of gay men who, like me, enjoy playing and watching sports," he says. "Gay sports have given me a whole new level of confidence and awakened that little boy in me who loved playing baseball.

"I'll never forget the day that someone called me an athlete," he added. "I never thought of myself that way, but it felt amazing and empowering."

Brost isn't just a player; he's also on the executive board planning the series. He has pulled together the opening and closing ceremonies, special events and fundraisers, publicity and promotion, the series website and social media channels.

"Series 2011 will be an incredible week of softball and social events," Brost said. "We have been preparing for this week for nearly two years. I am so proud to be a part of the executive board.

"Our goal is to host a memorable World Series that's about great friends and competitive softball -- and to leave a lasting legacy for Chicago gay sports and the greater LGBT community."

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