Ever since Stonewall Sports burst onto the LGBT sports scene in Washington in 2010, there has been one successful sports launch after another for the organization.
Stonewall Kickball began in the fall of 2010 with 90 players and more than doubled that amount in its next season. The Sunday league is currently maxed out at 450 players with overflow from the league being handled by D.C. Kickball on Wednesday nights.
The fall 2014 season that just ended last weekend was held on the National Mall due to the ongoing renovations at Stead Park Field. It’s unclear at this time when, if at all, they will return to their longtime home.
Stonewall Bocce kicked off in Logan Circle in 2011 with similar success and was followed by Stonewall Darts in 2013, held at Diego’s. Both leagues are at more than 200 players.
In the spring of 2014, Stonewall Sports introduced Stonewall Dodgeball, which outgrew its venue in the first season and is now contested at the Jewish Community Center with more than 200 players.
Martin Espinoza, co-founder of Stonewall Sports and the current Stonewall Kickball commissioner points to two key components that have led to the success of the model built by Stonewall Sports.
“Any of the Stonewall sports are an easy entry into the gay community for someone who is shy, new to the area, just getting over a break up or even someone who is recovering from an addiction,” Espinoza says. “It’s a chance to be outside the bar scene and to build a new network of friends.”
The other aspect that has proven popular is the sense of community that the leagues provide to their players. Each league is set up as a fundraising model so that the teams have the ability to raise money for their chosen charities.
“The D.C. Center for the LGBT Community receives the largest contribution from our fundraising but we have set the model up so that the teams are also competing for charities of their own choosing,” Espinoza says. “Stonewall Kickball has donated over $50,000 to charities since its inception in 2010.”
The structure of the Stonewall leagues has been noticed by members of other LGBT communities around the country. Espinoza was approached by some friends in Raleigh, N.C., who wanted to create a Stonewall league in their own small tight-knit community and Stonewall’s first expansion league was born.
“Raleigh thought they might be able to drum up four teams, but ended up with double that in their first season in 2013,” Espinoza says. “They are now at 20 teams with 450 players and raised $10,000 in their second season.”
Along with D.C. and Raleigh, Stonewall Sports now has leagues in Charlotte, N.C.; Greensboro, N.C.; Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Chicago with four more cities also looking to come on board.
“Kickball has been the mainstay for the expansion leagues, but now the other cities are looking to add the other sports,” Espinoza says. “As long as they maintain the Stonewall mission, my involvement is only whatever they need it to be. It is their city and their league.”
Along with their expansion cities, Stonewall Sports is next looking to add volleyball to its list of offerings.
Earlier this year, a D.C. team from Stonewall Kickball traveled to Las Vegas for their first kickball tournament at the Sin City Shootout and followed that up with the inaugural Stonewall Kickball Summer Tournament which drew teams from the expansion cities. This January, five Stonewall Kickball teams from D.C., Raleigh and Philadelphia will travel to Las Vegas for the next edition of the Sin City Shootout.
“The game is what brings people to Stonewall Sports leagues, but there is so much more to be offered,” Espinoza says. “The socialization, the fundraising, the camaraderie and the sport together make it a combined experience.”