Four. That’s right, count em’, four. Across the country there are only four Women professional softball teams. On the other hand there are 30 baseball teams, and countless farm programs that feed in to the major leagues. But only four women teams, each carrying a roster of around 20 females that exist in this country. That makes about only 80 females with the chance to pursue softball past college and at the top level of the sport within the United States.
In 2005, the International Olympic Committee eliminated both baseball and softball from the Olympics, and in 2013, they were up for evaluation for re- admittance into the Olympics but lost out to Wrestling (which let us be honest, should have never been taken out of the Olympics in the first place). Baseball has it’s MLB. Men get to continue on and play baseball for many more years to come — but for women, it’s college ball and then after that, very few get to continue on. As Messner states, “The center is a position occupied by the biggest, wealthiest, and most visible sports programs and athletes. It is a site of domination and privilege. It is the major focal point of the gaze of millions of fans and spectators.” And more times than not, that center is men’s sports. The Olympics were the major world showcase for softball. The US women had three gold medals and were considered dominant until the Olympics were ripped away from them. As one of the players stated (Jessica Mendoza), “we were never given a chance to grow,” ”Gosh, we’re babies when it comes to the Olympics. Then we’re gone.”
So while there is a USA softball team, what do they have to work for? No longer do the women have a goal of going to the Olympics and representing their country on a big stage. Instead they’re scared for what comes next…what happens after college? After their four years in school? Sports are supposed to provide opportunities for women and girls. Yet how is this going to happen? How are women supposed to pursue their dream when there isn’t a professional league for them to continue on, and there are no Olympic goals left? We as a society look forward to the Major League Baseball season, because it’s a homegrown sport and “America’s Pastime”. But softball is becoming more and more popular as time passes, and the sport will continue to grow. So shouldn’t we as a society grow with it? And encourage young females to keep having that dream of being a professional athlete? I strongly believe that we need to expand the NPF (National Pro Fastpitch) League to more than just four teams. We need to break the institutions that are put in place, and see these females as the hard working, tough athletes that they are; that we as a society can believe that these females are as important and entertaining to watch as men are. Women sports are often pushed to the margins and are often left behind, which is exactly what has happened to women’s softball. In order to change this, the institutional centers have to be destabilized. That’s why Title IX was introduced, and acted as a resistant agency. Women athletic leagues act as a way “through which women have empowered themselves to fight against and change the institutions that oppress them” (Messner 87).
Softball needs this change to continue. We, as a sport, need society to see how much work we put in as athletes to perfect our sports and to compete at the highest level. The commodification of sports is at an all-time high, so why not capitalize on this and put marketing into a fast growing sport such as softball? As the league website states, “NPF, formerly the Women’s Pro Softball League, is intended to provide family entertainment for people of all ages and to showcase the top talent in fastpitch softball today. It is the goal of the League to entertain and provide positive role models for young people. NPF demonstrates work ethic, dedication, and love for the sport of fastpitch softball.” With the support they are seeking like ”The development partnership with Major League Baseball, the broadcast support of local and national networks, the support of industry sponsors, the experience and commitment of team owners and the exceptional talent of NPF athletes and coaches combine and point toward a future that is bright and full of promise.” There is just that… a future full of promise for the sport, and I cannot wait to see that happen in the years to come so that one day my kids will be able to enjoy the beautiful sport on a more national scale.