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San Diego's Autumn Classic LGBT softball tournament sells out early

SAN DIEGO — The Autum Classic, the largest annual softball tournament on the West Coast, has already officially "sold out" 10 days ahead of schedule. The local tournament has already accepted the registrations of over 100 teams and will be hosted over the Columbus Day weekend, October 7-9, 2011.

“With over 1,400 athletes coming in from as far away as Philadelphia, Chicago, Orlando and Austin, we are working very hard to make sure this tournament is one of the best we’ve ever put on,” co-director Roman Jimenez said.

The Autumn Classic, the annual Fall tournament put on by the board of San Diego's local America's Finest City's Softball League (AFCSL), is in its 28th year. It is the third largest annual gay sporting event in the world, according to organizers.

"We run an efficient tournament that’s well organized and we never lose focus of the quality we’re offering,” said Dani Goodlett, tournament co-director.

"We have the best fields, the best umpires and we work hard to make sure the games are as competitive and fair as possible," she said.

The tournament has always been a popular one, with softball and the lure of a weekend in San Diego one of the largest draws.

"The weather, the people and the incredibly diverse nightlife all come together to create the perfect social and competitive atmosphere," Jimenez said.

Registration is breaking records this year, according to Jimenez.

"We advertise that we can accommodate 72 Open Division teams," he explained. "However, we're able to accommodate more and so for the last several years we've just accepted whoever wanted to register. Last year we had 71 teams, and an additional 20 women's teams.

"This year, however, the response has been so [great], we've already registered 90 Open Division teams. Even though we are fully utilizing four different softball complexes throughout the county, a total of 15 softball fields, with 19 women's teams, we are at 109 total teams, and that's four teams more than our capacity, but we'll make it work."

It is mostly local community organizations and bars that sponsor the regular AFCSL teams, many of which participate also in the tournament; so many of those team sponsors also get involved during Autumn Classic, to help show visitors to America's Finest City a good time.

Several social events are already planned around the tournament.

The first such event is also a fundraiser for The Center's HIV prevention programs, and will take place during player registration on Friday night in The Center’s main auditorium.

A closing party at Numbers on Sunday will benefit The Trevor Project.

Many other local sponsors will also be hosting fun events, with the hopes of bringing the out-of-town athletes into the local bars and other establishments.

For the first time in tournament history, shuttle buses will even help facilitate this, by transporting participating players from the host hotel at Mission Valley Resort, up to the Hillcrest and North Park neighborhoods.

"We can’t take our bars and restaurants to our players, but we can take our players to the bars and restaurants and that’s just what we’re going to do," Jimenez said.

For more information about the Autumn Classic, or to volunteer to help during the tournament itself, visit their website.