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George Kessinger, the man who helped start the South Florida Amateur Athletic Association softball league, brought gay life to Wilton Drive by opening Georgie's Alibi, and who single-handedly sponsored SFAAA in its early days as it gained footing, has been elected to the NAGAAA Hall of Fame. 

NAGAAA, the national gay softball association, posted the announcement Saturday afternoon. 

Kessinger joins Frank Bostic (2001), who passed away last summer, and Paul Falcone (2010) as the only players from SFAAA to enter the national gay softball organization's Hall of Fame. 

Kessinger and his fellow inductees will be honored at the Hall of Fame dinner on Aug. 30 in Dallas during the Gay Softball World Series. 

"Wow. I'm honored. Thank you very much," Kessinger told me when I made the call to inform him of his induction. 

Kessinger, an original member of the SFAAA Hall of Fame, added that it was extra special to enter the NAGAAA Hall on the 25th anniversary of the founding of his softball team, the Alibi Angels. 

Nominating Kessinger for the NAGAAA Hall was my final act as SFAAA Chairman in the summer of 2019. Thanks also go to SFAAA Hall of Famers Ernest Schlegel and George Foley, as well as Randy Gage, for writing letters of recommendation to the NAGAAA Hall of Fame committee. 

"We have been making a concerted effort to honor league founding fathers," NAGAAA Hall of Fame Chair Roy Melani said. "This honor is well-deserved." 

Schlegel recalled Kessinger's vision of nurturing the fledgling six-team league in that first season in 1995 on a muddy morning, and helping to grow it into the juggernaut SFAAA and the Hurricane Showdown are today. 

"George has been directly responsible for bringing in hundreds if not thousands of members to South Florida’s premier softball league, which his time, effort, and money helped build. At the same time, he sent countless teams around the country to tournaments and World Series," Schlegel wrote. 

"George was a fixture for years … driving, flying, and busing around the country to support tournaments in many of the cities NAGAAA plays in today. 

"George stepped up when a player was in need of equipment, whether it was a player in need of a hearing aid so he could hear the ball come off the bat, or a player who needed a car part, to that all-important plane ticket to get to that next tournament. George was always there." 

Foley recalled how Kessinger was a father figure to many, providing a steady hand and yet always allowing the teams to compete on their autonomy while helping SFAAA to weather those early times with the grace that defined him. 

"Georgie's actions, words, and example led many of us to see that in starting a new team or joining an existing roster we were participating in something larger than ourselves. It was a time when our culture was still shell-shocked from personal loss and facing a world that wanted to segregate us. The prevailing attitude seemed to be 'WTF, this is where the boys are — let’s just party.' And yet there was another option that existed for so many through Georgie's efforts on behalf of the league," Foley wrote. 

Gage recalled the early days when SFAAA wasn't incorporated, bookkeeping was sketchy, and its existence was questionable. But Kessinger and an early group of leaders and supporters bought into the vision of a safe space where LGBT people could compete, socialize, and fellowship in the healthy environment of sports. 

"At one point, Georgie was sponsoring 10 teams at one time," Gage wrote. "Georgie always opened his clubs for league meetings, committees, and any team needing space. He participated in committees himself and provided many in-kind contributions to the league. 

"The strength of NAGAAA arises from the vitality of our member cities. And with the exception of Chuck Dima, arguably no one else did more to strengthen and grow SFAAA than George Kessinger." 

Well done, sir. And thank you from all of us.

Tim Martin is a native of Detroit and a graduate of the University of Michigan. Tim moved to South Florida in 2005, and worked for the Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post. Tim was Chairman of the local gay softball league, SFAAA, from 2015-2019.