NASHVILLE, Tenn. – National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) announced today it will celebrate its 15th season, which leads off in May, through various season-long initiatives that will recognize influential and impactful players of the league throughout its history. The initiatives will take place at both the league and team levels and will include specially-themed days at the park, social media fan engagements and video messages from many of the league’s well-known players since its inaugural season in 2004.
The video messages begin today with special birthday wishes from former USSSA Pride outfielder Jessica Mendoza. Following her retirement from the Pride in 2012, Mendoza went on to break barriers in the broadcasting world by becoming the first woman to call a nationally-televised Major League Baseball postseason game. She is currently a staple on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcasting team and is a familiar voice as a lead color commentator on ESPN’s coverage of the NCAA Softball Tournament and Women’s College World Series.
The NPF, starting in 2004, branched off from the Women’s Professional Softball League (WPSL), which began in the early 1990s. The main differentiator between the two leagues was the NPF incorporating individual team ownership instead of a single league and team owner entity.
Both the Chicago Bandits and the Akron Racers were members of the inaugural season of competition in 2004. The Racers made the transition to the new league, having been involved in the former WPSL, and the Bandits played their first game in franchise history the following year. The USSSA Pride is currently the third oldest team, joining the league in 2009 and celebrating their 10th season of professional softball this year. The reigning Cowles Cup champions, Scrap Yard Dawgs, joined the league in 2016, capturing the title in their second season. Last year, the Beijing Shougang Eagles became the first complete international team to join the league, followed by the addition of the Aussie Spirit, which will mark its debut in 2018.
Along the way, there have been many milestones for the league, which, in the professional sports landscape, is still in its infancy. From an administrative standpoint, the league established a true central office in 2007 in Nashville, with the hiring of current Commissioner, Cheri Kempf. Within two years, Kempf established a pair of important initiatives that sustained the league through 10 years of national economic hardship – the formation of NPF Media, LLC as an investor of the league, and the formation of the league itself as a franchisor.
Throughout the 15 years, the league has also worked strategically and diligently in forming activation assets for current and future sponsorships. Those assets include the standalone events of the NPF Championship Series, NPF Draft, and the Fall Back to School Tour. In addition, NPF has showcased its potential for broad-based multi-platform media distribution through coverage on ESPN2 (Championships 2011, 2012 and season plus Championship in 2013), CBS Sports Network (season and Championships 2014-2016, Draft plus Pre-Series Special 2015, 2016), and most recently, NPFTV (2016, 2017), The Olympic Channel, MLB.com and Flo Sports (2018).
From a performance standpoint, the NPF has enjoyed the game’s most accomplished, decorated and recognizable players, both as former USA Softball Olympians and National Team members, and NCAA standouts. Internationally, throughout the league’s history, top players have participated from Australia, Canada, China, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand.
The league and teams will recognize many former players and coaches throughout the season as well as long-time fans and season ticket holders by hosting fan promotions, interactive events and presentations.
About National Pro Fastpitch (NPF)
National Pro Fastpitch (NPF), an Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball since 2004, provides elite female athletes with an opportunity to pursue a professional career in fastpitch softball beyond their collegiate and amateur success. The NPF affiliate teams consist of the Akron Racers, Aussie Spirit, Beijing Shougang Eagles, Chicago Bandits, Scrap Yard Dawgs, and USSSA Florida Pride for the 2018 season. National Pro Fastpitch players hail from the United States, Australia, Canada and China among which are the most accomplished and talented athletes in the sport of women’s softball.