Ten Things the NPF Needs to Try

A Formula for Pro Softball Success in the United States 

By TSC Contributor KCSoftball

LOMBARD – Ten things the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league needs to try:

1st: The biggest problem with pro softball in the USA is that it is fashioned after the amateur leagues. In the MLB the commissioner's office is the center of power. Bud runs the leagues and the teams follow. In softball it is the other way around. Teams need one person in power and only one! Owners can run their teams, but they all need one person to run the league and see that all teams play by the same rules.

2nd: The next biggest problem is the lack of a national TV contract. I don't know the in's or out's of why they don't have one.  I can only speculate.  Without a national TV contract the league will not grow as it should! Women's fastpitch is popular on TV. It has a following. Look at the Women's College World Series. There are sponsors out there willing to take on the games. The ratings will be there.

3rd: Pro players have to promote themselves if they want to get their name out there.  I have said many times the NPF has to make its own stars, and to do that it has to start promoting, promoting, promoting itself and its players. One hears very little from the NPF during its short summer season. One almost NEVER hears about the NPF the rest of the year. PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE! Find ways to get the league's name and its top players out there year-round.

4th: I enjoyed seeing the USSSA Pride play out here in California during the spring. The NPF should form a couple of All-Star teams and barnstorm to as many cities during spring and fall as possible, playing as many exhibition games on weekends as they can. Try to schedule as many college teams to play as it can. Keep the NPF name out there!

5th: People are not used to attending NPF games. The league has to sell itself to the fans. Get people interested and used to attending games. Humans are creatures of habit and need to be "trained" to attend the games. Fans are not used to going to NPF games; you gotta train them, show that the games are fun. Entertain the fans. Give them more for their money than they can get anywhere else!

6th: Make your own "stars" and pay a basic full-time salary to go to events for free.  Have an "agent" set up players to attend events all year long. Find a way for one or two to attend "red carpet" events. Find/hire a "name male" Hollywood celebrity to take them.  Get them on TV to promote the NPF as much as possible. Attend "Opening Day" events at local youth leagues.  It will be worth the cost.

7th: Find at least two more owners, hopefully four, to expand the league.  The NPF needs eight teams. The NPF should put on a "full court press" to find those new owners. There has to be people out there willing to take on a team.

8th: Start a "Reading Club" in the local schools.  Have players go into local K-1-2 grades and read to the kids. Wear uniform tops or jackets. Hand out autographed pictures of the team  See if some publishers that publish children's books will give out books to take with players when they go into the schools. Have a player read a book and other players act out the book as it is read, ie, as in "The Three Little Pigs." Use cardboard cutouts for effect.  If the players make friends with the kids, the kids will get the parents to attend games.

9th: Players need to start "working out" during the off-season. I know it is sexist, but the players need to tone their bodies better so they will look better on TV. The players also need to "sell" themselves to the public. Players (and coaches) need to look good! After all, it's still a man's world and you ladies want your share of it!  Hopefully some day women's looks won't be as big a factor as it now is, but for now that's the reality.

10th: I end with PROMOTE, PROMOTE, PROMOTE: teams, leagues, players.  The odds are not in your favor--it's going to take a lot of hard work from you ladies to make it happen. The men are not going to do it for you! They are satisfied with the status quo. You ladies (girls & women) have to take matters into your own hands to make it happen! Read more.


Brakettes Return to Pro Competition

Legendary Connecticut Ballclub to Face NPF Racers in Exhibition Doubleheader 

By TSC Contributor KEVIN KAGE

LOMBARD – After a six-year hiatus, the Connecticut Brakettes will return to pro softball competition when they take on the Akron Racers in an exhibition doubleheader tomorrow night at Firestone Stadium.

The Brakettes were a member of the National Pro Fastpitch league in 2006, finishing second during the regular season with a record of 27-15 and runner-up to the New England Riptide in the 2006 NPF championship game. They dropped out of the league the following year but still compete as an amateur league in the women’s major division of the Amateur Softball Association (ASA).

The Brakettes have one of the longest and storied histories in all of women’s sports. The team was founded two years after the end of World War II in Stratford, Connecticut by William S. Simpson. The original name was the Raybestos Girl All-Stars after the Stratford Raybestos plant which produced brake linings for cars and trucks. Over the years the name has changed to Raybestos Brakettes, Hi-Ho Brakettes, Stratford Brakettes and finally, Connecticut Brakettes.

The Brakettes were the first women’s softball team of the ASA. The ASA sent the team to compete in the International Softball Federation (ISF) Women’s World championship in 1965. They finished with a record of 8–3 and a silver medal, which is considered one of the most important events in softball history. Afterwards the team travelled around the world serving as ambassadors for the sport. Read more.


'Carolina Diamonds' Name Goes Way Back

Pro Team by that Name Competed in the 1990's

By TSC Contributor KEVIN KAGE

LOMBARD – Earlier t
his year the NPF rebranded its fourth franchise the "Carolina Diamonds," but that name is not new to the world of professional fastpitch. A team by that same exact name (no coincidence, I'm sure) was a member of the old Women's Pro Faspitch league, forerunner of the NPF.

Having relocated to Sims Legion Park in Gastonia, NC in the winter of 1997, the original Diamonds won the WPF's "first-half title" in 1998 with a record of 21-12 (back then the regular season was split into two halves, each with its own title; the two winners faced off in the postseason Championship Series).

Although the Diamonds got off to a fast start that year, the Orlando Wahoos (forerunner of the NPF's oldest and only original team, the Akron Racers) captured the second half title with a record of 25-8 and then swept the Diamonds two games to none in the 1998 Championship Series.

The Diamonds faded as a team in 1999, although slugger Monica Armen set a single-season home run record of 12 with a grand slam over the Durham Dragons on August 20th.

Team operations were officially suspended on October 14th, 1999, and the name "Carolina Diamonds" drifted into oblivionthat is, of course, until this year when it will once again grace the jerseys of pro athletes playing softball in North Carolina and across the country. Read more.


Chicago Bandits are in Free Fall

The Reigning NPF Champs are in a Serious Slump

By TSC Contributor KEVIN KAGE

LOMBARD – The defending National Pro Fastpitch champion Chicago Bandits have dropped off a cliff, plummeting from first place to also-rans in a matter of nine days.

After looking like they might run away with the Regular Season Championship only a few weeks ago, last year’s champs have lost 10 of their last 12 games, three of them blowouts: 17-2 and 13-6 to the USSSA Pride, and 19-7 to the Carolina Diamonds. Those are the same Diamonds, by the way, who last year broke the NPF record for worst regular season ever. And they obliterated the Bandits on their home field. Ouch!

To complete its implosion, Chicago’s last game against the Pride was a melee: multiple players from both teams were ejected for hitting batters, and coaches were ejected for arguing with umpires about the player ejections.

The Bandits now sit squarely in the middle of the pack, 4.5 games behind the USSSA Pride and only 1.5 games ahead of the third-place Diamonds.

Who or what is responsible for this slide?  One thing’s for sure: it’s not their ace pitcher, Monica Abbott. The monolithic hurler is responsible for both of her team’s recent victories, including a flat out duel with superstar Cat Osterman on July 13th.

But Abbott is showing signs of weariness. Her first loss of the season was July 22nd and she has lost two games since, although by a single run apiece. In her last game she struck out only three and walked five, substandard numbers for the former Olympian.

Without Abbott the Bandits seem lost, frantically rotating pitchers between Nikki Nemitz, Meagan Denny-White, Chandra Bell and Michelle Moses—so far no one has been able to stop the hemorrhaging.

The Pride, in contrast, has a stable of effective pitchers at its disposal: veteran Sarah Pauly, Canadian star Danielle Lawrie and rookie Brittany Mack—not to mention superstar Cat Osterman. Both Pauly and Lawrie have won recent head-to-head contests with Abbott—Pauly a 2-1 victory on July 27th and Lawrie a 3-2 win the next day—so the trepidation about Cat Osterman re-injuring her throwing arm has finally vanished for the Orlando-based ballclub.

The Bandits may be slipping now, but don’t count them out just yet. They are not going to go down without a fight. The playoffs are going to be held on their home turf for the first time since 2005—the same year they joined the NPF—and in their new $6 million stadium, so they will be extra pumped up for the postseason. That, plus Monica Abbott’s arm, may be just enough to keep them in contention for the title. Read more.


Pride & Bandits Outpacing Pro Field

Florida & Chicago Ball Clubs are Running Away with 2012 NPF Season


LOMBARD – Similar to last year, two teams have outpaced the field in the National Pro Fastpitch league as it heads the second half of its regular season: the reigning champion Chicago Bandits, and last year’s runner-up the USSSA Pride. And similar to last year, each team has hitched its wagon to its (super)star pitcher in Monica Abbott for the Bandits and Cat Osterman for the Pride.

In 2011 the expected prize fight between these two former Olympians fizzled as Cat went down early in the Championship Series with an arm injury. But this year the titanic matchup is looking more and more certain as both pitchers are healthy and at the top of their game.

Right now the Pride seems to have all the momentum, winning 7 of its last 10 games compared to the Bandits’ 2 of 10. In their last series July 14th-16th in Florida the Pride took three of four games, outscoring the Bandits 36-12. Yet despite this recent dominance, the Florida ball club is running neck-and-neck with Chicago in the standings; recently they moved ahead by half a game with a 16-11 record.

The other two league franchises, the Carolina Diamonds and Akron Racers, both have losing records and don’t seem to be playing the same game right now. However, a lot can happen during the final month of the season, and the postseason can be unpredictable.

The Bandits return to Florida this Thursday to take on the Pride in a four-game set. With both teams comfortably ahead in the standings there isn’t much incentive to go all out, but the mind games should prove interesting as they position themselves for a playoff rematch next month.

At minimum the Bandits need to prove to themselves that they can be competitive with the USSSA ball club—with or without another “cat-astrophic” injury to its superstar pitcher.

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