Michael O. Rice II is set for his seventh season playing in the Open Sunday Softball league, run by the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association ( CMSA ), with the first pitch set for May 1. He is a third baseman playing for the C-Division team called, Legion of Boomand this is his first season as the league's commissioner.
Rice replaced Jack Neilsen, who held the title for the past eight seasons.
About 750 players are expected this season on 45 talent-tiered teams, playing an 18-game, 10-week season through July 24, followed by two weeks of playoffs. That famous umpire call, "Play Ball," can't come soon enough for Rice and the mostly gay men who pitch, hit and run for fun and bragging rights at six north-side fields.
The focus this season is, simple softball, he said.
"We really want [softball] to just be about having a good time, so it's not so intense or structured and feeling like a chore," he said.
Rice said the league will have several preseason events, such as a signup party, which was held March 12. ( Anyone who missed it and wants to play is still open to sign up, and future signup parties will be held. ) There also will be a skills and pitching clinic on Sunday, April 3, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., at Margate Fields. Plus, there will be a kickoff party on Friday, April 22, at Empirical Brewery.
Rice said the drop in players and teams this season is partially attributed to Father Time, and some teams are merging.
"We are very excited about the upcoming season and we, as the [league's] board, are putting things in place for everyone to have a fun, memorable season," said Rice who, as a CMSA softball player has won multiple championships, such as the 2011 open Sunday softball title.
"The thing that stands out to me [about CMSA,] particularly softball, is the friends I've made. Some of my teammates are some of my best friends."
Rice has played in softball tournaments across the United States, with CMSA teams and also in the annual Gay Softball World Series. He even carried the Chicago flag into the opening ceremony of the 2013 World Series, held in Washington, D.C., which he said was "awesome, a great experience, a great honor to represent the city."
"The ability to go out on a Sunday, be with my friends, play softball, have a good time, and watch everyone else have a good time … that's what I enjoy most about the [Open Sunday Softball league]," Rice said.
The Open Sunday Softball League welcomes new players annually, including about 20 or so who have never previously played the sport, or it's been years or decades since they last used a glove. "We'll find a team for anyone who wants to play, so you can play, have a good time and improve your skills," Rice said.
- Age: 40
- Orientation: Gay
- Relationship status: Single
- Neighborhood: Andersonville
- Job title: HR Generalist
- CMSA title: Treasurer and Open Sunday Softball commissioner
- Plays in CMSA: Softball, football, volleyball ( indoor and beach ), ultimate and dodgeball
- Favorite pro athlete: Michael Phelps
- Favorite pro team: Chicago White Sox
- Most-used app: Twitter
- Uber or Lyft?: Uber
- Little-known fact: "When I'm not playing sports, I judge high school theater and speech."