Softball's Olympic Reinstatement Helps NPF

Tokyo Games Will Generate Plenty of New Pro Stars

By TSC Contributor KEVIN KAGE

LOMBARD  The news of softball's reinstatement for the 2020 Tokyo Games has major implications for National Pro Fastpitch (NPF).  Yes, some of the league’s best athletes will have to take time off from their professional career to train for and compete in Tokyo, including missing most, if not all, of the 2020 regular season and Championship Series.

But the positives far outweigh the negatives.

Over the past two years the NPF has made tremendous strides,  expanding from four to six teams, signing its first $1-million dollar contract and securing the best television coverage in its history.  Yet attendance remains lackluster at many of its games.

The sad fact is, the vast majority of Americans are still completely oblivious to the existence of a professional women's softball league in their country.  Yet every one of them has heard about the Olympics.

Most athletes competing in the Games, and especially those fortunate enough to win a medal (and especially gold), become an instant national hero.

The beauty of it is, Olympic softball is both dominated by Americansmaking a gold or silver medal finish almost a certaintyand a team sport.  So we will almost assuredly have 15 new national softball heroes following the gold medal game in 2020.

Many of those heroes will end up playing professionally for the NPF.

And that's just counting the American players.  Several years ago the NPF started adding elete Japanese athletes to its roster; their skill and competitive spirit made them instant crowd favorites.  As host country for the Games and defending softball gold medalists, Japan is sure to generate at least a few more NPF stars.

Only a few members of the 2008 Olympic squad are still active participants in the NPF, and their number will dwindle to zero very shortly.

Remember Jennie Finch?  The 2004 Olympics made her a household name, and that notoriety was a huge factor in launching the NPF.  Unfortunately, Jennie retired six years ago.

The league desperately needs to replenish its supply of heroes.  That starts in 2020.  Read more.