In honor of opening day of this year's baseball season, Tim Bias threw out the first pitch-in C.C. Slaughter's, the gay bar.
Where else would he do it? After all, Bias is the unofficial "spokesmodel" for the Rose City Softball Association, an adult league serving the local gay, lesbian, bi and affiliated communities. Portland's league, which just kicked off its 11th season, is one of 30 around the country associated with the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance.
On a wet Saturday morning under a Northwest park shelter, I tossed a few with this 40-year-old, 6-foot-1-inch athletic supporter who considers himself a catcher both on and off the field. In between some lame, underhanded lobs-OK, so I throw like a girl-this patient Red Wings player/manager, who goes by the name "Mr. Hard-ass" (and not because he's mean), threw me quite the curve ball. He confessed that he wasn't much of an athlete growing up.
Like a lot of gay men, Bias had his own share of growing pains, and sports was just one of the playing fields where he felt insecure. "I knew I was different," Bias says. "I was horrible at organized sports. I didn't like football, couldn't play baseball, and I'm not even going to talk about how bad I was at basketball. And I never threw a ball with my dad. Not once."
About 10 years ago, things changed for Bias when he was introduced to the world of queer softball. "I always thought of myself as one of those who didn't need a parade or [a group] to feel OK about being gay," says Bias, who owns his own insurance company and previously worked as a runway model, bartender, aerobics instructor and personal trainer. "But [with gay softball] I'd finally found a place where gays could get together that wasn't about sex, drugs and whirling nightclubs. You get to be yourself and get to know people as they really are." Including, that is, all the screaming queens.
Unlike in the big leagues, "you're not ridiculed for being gay in softball," Bias says. "Some of the best ballplayers are the nelliest guys I've ever met."
Bias was one of the game officials for the super-successful Gay Softball World Series held here in August '02. That's the same tourney that was so rudely interrupted by George W. Bush. Despite the fact that Bias was booted from his Hilton Hotel room at the tournament's headquarters-for security reasons, as his room was directly below the president's suite-he says the perfectly pitched event was the pinnacle of his life. "I couldn't have asked for anything more," he says.
While gay softball has been very, very good to this queer dude, there was one thing that Bias wanted to make sure I mentioned-and it wasn't about how big his bat was, although it might as well have been.
With a dozen open teams, plus nine women's teams, you'd think queer softball would be the perfect place to score a hot athlete. But Bias hasn't found his beloved sport to be a successful meet market. "Sure, it happens in the league," he says, "but it's not a hookup for me. So make sure you tell everybody I'm single, OK?"
OK, big guy, score one for the team.
Softball season opened on April 17 and runs every Sunday through the end of July. See the schedule or find out how to join at www.portlandgaysoftball.com