Softball Notebook

The Softball Channel’s Fastpitch Blog

12  06 2009

Hired Guns

Olympians in the NPF: Are They Worth Their Salaries?

By John Thorson
Father of Chicago Bandits pitcher Kristina Thorson

I just returned from the Chicago Bandits-Philadelphia Force series. Although it was a little chilly for a couple games and seemed threatening for another, the weather was no factor. The fans who were there were treated to some great softball played by both sides and the fans seemed appreciative. Unfortunately, the great product on the field didn’t translate into fans in the seats despite the Bandits fielding two great Olympians: Vicky Galindo and, arguably the best known active player in the game, Jennie Finch.

This made me wonder: are the Olympic players worth the significant salaries they’re supposedly being paid? It becomes even more questionable when, based upon what I was led to believe, they will be paid their salaries even though some will be spending most of the summer playing with the National Team and providing probably $0 value to the NPF.

To be sure, this is not, in any way, directed negatively towards those players. They are great players that have represented our country with skill and class and deserve whatever they can negotiate. The question is simply are they, from the NPF or ownership view, worth their salaries?

How much are these players being paid? Maybe we can back into a “reasonable” number. NPF teams have a $150,000 salary cap, up from $100,000 in 2008. According to printed reports, most players salaries range from $2500 to $5000 for the season. Let’s assume that the average team has 16 non-Olympians making $7,000 (should be high) and 2 Olympians. That leaves $48,000 to be split between the latter (obviously, there are big assumptions in this analysis). Further, assuming that they are gone playing on the National Team for 6 of the 8 series (Championship series not included), THAT is a very significant amount of the team cap!

During the last Bandits-Thunder series (4 games) of 2008, the Bandits attracted 4167 fans, or 1042 per game. During the opening 5 game series at Chicago in 2009, the recaps show an attendance of 2578 fans, or 515 game. Granted, it’s early in the season, kids are in school, Little League players have games, travel ball players have tournaments, and families are busy. But that is all the more reason to question the rationality of large salaries given the Olympic players were absent during the 2008 season.

Assuming they are not “earning” their salaries (i.e. bringing in more profit than their salaries), there are two possible reasons:

1. their names and notariety can’t command the marketing potential needed, and/or
2. the NPF and owners haven’t used these players to their full marketing potential

Personally, I’d love to see them really promote the “regular” players—those that will be playing day in and day out, so that locals can learn to identify with and support them. It is especially important that the young ladies playing Little League and travel ball be able to see their local heroes in action and interact with them during the autograph signing period following each game. It also allows these young ladies to dream about what they can accomplish with desire and hard work. Recognize, however, that given the new format of 5-game series, little time is afforded to get the players out into the community.

I am a huge fan of the NPF, the owners, and, especially, the many outstanding athletes, Olympic and non-Olympic players alike, that compete and entertain those that have the pleasure to sit in those seats. I bring this up because 1) I’m very curious how others feel regarding topic and, more importantly, 2) I know players that would have received a substantial raise but couldn’t be paid more due to the salary cap. I hope this topic doesn’t offend anyone; that is the furthest idea on my mind.

One Response to “Hired Guns”

  1. Let’s face it. Celebrity status has been earned by Finch and Galindo and this helps the NPF draw more attention to itself and sell more tickets to games. Without financial incentives to keep them playing for NPF, perhaps they would be content to move on to new adventures. I agree there are many outstanding athletes who deserve attention and recognition both on the field and on the bench. Finch and Galindo worked hard to accomplish what they have. Why should they not be rewarded with some cold hard cash? In the pro baseball world no one would bat an eye at paying higher dividends to the crowd pleasers.

    As the mother of a Chicago Bandit, I am happy the team has some celebrity status and hope in time the Bandits create some new celebrities with the talent they already have.

    Perhaps in the future fastpitch softball will gain the status in the sporting world it deserves. Let’s face it, these girls worked incredibly hard to get to this level of play. It is not fair the women do not get equal pay to the men, but let’s not discourage it from happening by grumbling over the lucky ones who managed to get paid a bit more for whatever reason.

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