By Jasmine Kim
Fastpitch softball requires the same skills and dedication as baseball. However, all the blood, sweat, and tears shed by softball players are often overlooked and underestimated with the focus on baseball instead. Despite the countless hours that many women in Division 1 softball teams spend pitching, batting, or catching on the field, they do not receive the same recognition as baseball players do.
Players within the 286 Division 1 teams across universities dream of playing in the Women’s College World Series (WCWS) to win the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) title. However, the lack of exposure for these athletes present challenges to continue playing this exhilarating, fast-paced sport.
The National Pro Fastpitch (NPF), a professional softball league, has just five teams in total compared to the 30 teams in Major League Baseball (MLB). Out of these NPF teams, only the Chicago Bandits, Cleveland Comets, and California Commotion are from the United States.
The argument against a major professional women’s fastpitch league is that past trials have been proven to be unsuccessful without many viewers. However, the annual competition between the D1 NCAA colleges continuously proves that women’s softball deserves a larger audience.
Attendance has grown by thousands, concluding that people are willing to support their local teams and watch the game. According to USA Today, there were over one million viewers watching even pre-finals games. That is almost double the number of NHL first round playoffs.
The excitement that comes with the WCWS does not have to come to a stop after the season. If MLB became involved in promoting and supporting NPF, softball players would be able to continue to improve and showcase their skills on a greater platform.
Over 40 million people attend minor league baseball games according to Minor League Baseball, proving that many fans enjoy going to their local ballparks and cheering for their team. Adding fastpitch to this tradition would allow softball players and fans to have the same experience as baseball players and fans.
“Of course [softball players] should have the same chance. I truthfully didn’t know that there was a professional softball league. I think that Sports Center should start marketing softball more and post about what a specific player did because obviously MLB gets a lot more credit than softball players do,” senior Will White from the baseball team said.
There is no guarantee that NPF will become as popular as MLB, but the league is still relatively new at only 18 years old. So it is only reasonable for such a young league to be growing. The trick in expanding fastpitch softball is to create a product that people want to watch.
Every year, MLB rakes in billions of dollars in total revenue. Opening up a market for professional female athletes would provide a new world for young women all over the world. A fastpitch league in collaboration with MLB would issue the financial backing that is needed to carry the sport to new heights to receive the level of success and recognition it deserves.
Like the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Women’s NBA, baseball and softball should go hand in hand, especially as the skills and drive that are needed to succeed are at the same level if not more impressive.
“Softball is most definitely faster because everything is closer, so that makes it harder. Baseball is just a lot slower in that sense, so I think [softball] is harder, but I could be biased because I play softball,” senior Chandler Martin said.
With its return to the Olympics, softball is hoping to gain enough popularity to continue to leave its mark on viewers even halfway across the world. It is time for women to receive the same opportunities as men. Softball players should be able to play the game they love in front of crowds. When people take the step to recognize fastpitch, there is a high chance that the stars employed in NFP today will become well known legends in the future.