One of the great stories to come out of the LGBT sports community in D.C. over the last few years has been the emergence of Stonewall Kickball.
The group was founded in the fall of 2010 by Martin Espinoza and Mark Gustafson who were both playing in the D.C. Kickball League.
The first season was a huge success with 90 players making up six teams. In about two years those numbers have grown to 550 players making up 20 teams. And that’s just in the Sunday league.
With limited space at Stead Park Field, the only option to expand was to add a league on Thursday nights within the D.C. Kickball League whose members held the permit for that night.
“It was the best option as we did not want to compete for the permit,” Espinoza says.
That league features competitive teams along with more social teams that fall under the Junior Varsity classification.
Along with kickball, the Stonewall Sports umbrella has grown to include Stonewall Bocce and Stonewall Darts.
“We decided to use the Stonewall name because there are a lot of young LGBT transients in the D.C. area,” Espinoza says. “Many of them are unfamiliar with the Stonewall riots and we like to think of it as honoring those who came before us in the fight for gay rights.”
The league operates a spring season that runs from March to May and a fall season from September to November. Both seasons last nine weeks, games last 45 minutes and up to 11 people can be on the field at a time.
For many, the memory of those red rubber playground balls can conjure up painful dodge ball memories. But along with that are sweet childhood kickball memories.
“The whole reason we decided to start this league was because we were not having fun in the other league,” Espinoza says. “They were very competitive and we ran into some homophobia. The goal of Stonewall Kickball is to have fun. It’s human nature to want to win, but we have adopted the attitude of ‘you win some, you lose some.’”
That attitude seems to pervade throughout the players as on any given Sunday you can see a mixture of team colors walking along together in groups on 17th Street.
Giving back to the community is also a focal point for Stonewall Kickball. Registration fees for the league are $40-$50, but teams are encouraged to reach preset fundraising goals.
Their main beneficiary over the last two and a half years has been the D.C. Center. They will also be hosting their third Drag Ball fundraiser this June, which also raises funds for Capital Pride.
Last summer the group paid for the mulching and painting of the tree boxes along 17th Street and Espinoza was the leading force behind the Save Stead Park petition, which sought to stop renovations to the park that would reduce field space by 25 percent.
Coming up for the kickball players is a mixer with the bocce league, the dart league and the D.C. Gay Flag Football League and also a community day that will focus on 17th Street and Stead Park.
You can follow them at stonewallsports.org.