Softball is a beloved sport, but most people only know of its recreational or amateur level. Surprisingly, there are professional softball leagues around the world! Teams in these leagues are made up of athletes from different backgrounds. They try to be the best and prove themselves on a higher level.
The National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) is the most well-known professional league in North America. It has teams in the U.S. and Canada. The NPF is associated with Major League Baseball. The players in this league have great skill and put on an enthusiastic show for the fans, who watch in person or stream online from other countries.
Europe also has domestic professional softball leagues. Teams are located in the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, France, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia, and Great Britain. International teams come from Slovakia, Estonia, Romania, Sweden, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Greece, and Poland. Events like European Championships and Denmark Cup are held yearly and teams are invited to attend.
History of Professional Softball
The Amateur Softball Association of America was created in 1933, forming the foundation of professional softball’s long and illustrious history. Major League Softball, National Professional Fastpitch and the Professional Women’s Softball League are just some of the professional softball leagues that have existed.
Let’s delve into the history and progress of these professional softball leagues!
Amateur Softball Associations
In 1933, the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) was established. It was created with the goal to promote and develop amateur softball all over the world. This mission is still an essential part of the organization. For over 80 years, the ASA has grown to become the biggest governing body of amateur softball in the world and one of the top sports organizations in terms of members and leagues.
The ASA has many playable divisions. This includes Middle School/High School aged players and 30-over divisions for adult players. The youth divisions are shaped and organized to provide competitive play between similar-leveled teams. Also, it keeps competition and fun in balance. Every team is ensured a spot to regional or national tournament at season’s end so that each player can get the most importance!
Nowadays, there are plenty of professional leagues such as National Pro Fastpitch (NPF), Major League Softball (MLS). This has caused an increase in interest and competition when it comes to women’s softball at all levels. Normally, most professional teams only compete on weekends. But, some states have taken initiative by implementing official high school fast pitch association programs for local schools. An example is Texas Fast Pitch High School League – TFPSL which offers students another platform to give their best performance!
Professional Softball Leagues
Professional softball is recognized globally. These leagues give players the chance to demonstrate their aptitudes in a highly competitive atmosphere. In the 19th century, professional baseball formed and got popular in the US. Baseball created pro teams of semi-pro and amateur teams. Professional softball was soon after, only consisting of amateur teams. The first league was in St. Louis, Missouri in 1871.
These early leagues didn’t pay their players. They had no practice schedules or rankings for players’ performance levels. However, they set the basic rules of pro softball that still exist today, like three strikes per out and nine innings per game.
The National Professional Softball League (NPSL) was the first real organized “professional” league. It ran from 1917 till 1922 with six teams from all over the country. The playoffs gave national championships each year. This was during the time when basketball had the NBA. This popularity helped pro softball growth.
The Amateur Soft Ball Association (ASBA) was created in 1937. Local, state and regional tournaments led up to a champion titled ‘world champion.’ This lasted until 1981, when the organization couldn’t compete financially or organizationally against other sports.
The All-American Girls Professional Baseball league (AAGPBL) was successful following World War II and lasted from 1943 – 1954. Many players made it into the Hall Of Fame. Pro softball was added to the 2016 Summer Olympics where eight international squads competed.
This timeline led to today’s pro softball. National fast pitch leagues split between Men’s & Women’s divisions. USA Softballs Golden Games, Champions Cup & World Championships are held each year. Who knows how far professional softball will go!
Current Professional Softball Leagues
Softball’s legacy as an amateur sport is long and distinguished. Yet, of late it is enjoying an upsurge in popularity. Professional leagues such as Women’s Pro Fastpitch, National Pro Fastpitch and Major League Softball are now commonplace across the US.
Let’s examine these professional leagues in more detail:
National Pro Fastpitch (NPF)
National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) is the premier U.S-based professional softball league. It’s based in Nashville, Tennessee. The NPF has four teams: Beijing Eagles, Chicago Bandits, Cleveland Comets and USSSA Pride. It was founded in 2004, as a part of Major League Baseball (MLB). Now, it’s the top U.S professional softball league for women. Fans can enjoy the games and events. Players from all over the world come to compete.
The NPF’s mission is to provide a permanent place for athletes to play professionally. Plus, to inspire fans worldwide. Those who join make a lasting impact on the game. The players are admired for their achievements. Commissioner Cheri Kempf makes sure that the league maintains rules and regulations. This helps to improve collegiate playing level. It also gives athletes a pathway into professional ranks after graduation.
Major League Softball (MLS)
MLS is the premier pro softball league in the US, sponsored by MLB. It has ten teams throughout the US and Puerto Rico. Each team has eighteen full-time players. They play an eighty game regular season from April to September. Teams are divided into two four-team divisions. The standings are based on win/loss record, then head-to-head matchups and intradivision records.
Each game is seven innings. Teams earn one point for a win and none for a loss. If the score is tied after seven innings, the game continues with extra innings. This continues until one team wins, or the MLB rules board or local authorities intervene due to lack of daylight or weather.
MLS has been successful in making softball an entertaining sport with high competition. Teams also promote charity programs in their local communities and build youth softball leagues.
United Professional Softball League (UPSL)
The United Professional Softball League (UPSL) is an organization founded in 2019. It’s mission is to provide a unique and successful playing opportunity for professional and amateur athletes, as well as world-class entertainment for the fans.
The UPSL has two divisions: Pro Premier and Championship. Pro Premier is the highest level of semi-professional softball in the U.S. The Championship division has multiple levels of talent from recreational to competitive teams.
UPSL teams are filled with members of all ages, genders, sizes, skill levels, and backgrounds. Games, both day and night, last approximately 2-3 hours, with unlimited substitutions at competitive rates.
The UPSL City Dynamo won the 2020 Spring National Champions (Men’s Pro Premier Division). Orange County United was the Men’s Championship Division winner in 2019. San Francisco West Covina Senior Softball won the Women’s National Championship in spring 2019.
Teamwork is highly encouraged in this league. Cheering for one another is a great way to promote success. The UPSL also offers coaching services throughout the organization.
Benefits of Professional Softball
Professional softball is a great choice for dedicated athletes. It can open up career prospects, provide access to competitions, and help with professional growth. Plus, it’s full of networking opportunities. Let’s take a closer look at the many advantages of playing in a professional softball league:
- Career prospects
- Access to competitions
- Professional growth
- Networking opportunities
Pros of pro softball:
- Financial stability & flexibility. Pro teams have regular income from sponsors & ticket sales. Plus, bonuses & salary based on performance & team success. Housing near field & benefits packages.
- Flexibility to pursue other interests or jobs outside the sport. Short-lived due to injuries or career changes, but still pursue dreams in a way that suits them best.
Softball players joining a pro league enjoy more exposure compared to college and amateur leagues. This is due to media coverage and provides them with a bigger platform to show their talents.
Division I and pro players need to get seen and evaluated by coaches and scouts. This increases their chances of being recruited and asked to attend professional tryouts or combines.
Playing pro softball provides financial rewards. Higher payscale, uniforms, equipment, meals and travel expenses are all benefits that amateur teams don’t have. It’s a great incentive that junior league teams don’t have access to.
Opportunity for Growth
Professional softball enables players to reach their peak performance and open up career paths. The sport has boomed over the last decade, with new leagues in the US and abroad. Players can earn money, get noticed, and score sponsorship deals.
At the pro level, athletes have a long-term career by playing competitively. They show off their skills and train rigorously. Competing helps them improve timing and coordination, plus teamwork. Team chemistry is essential in advanced play and teaches communication, goal-setting, assertiveness, resilience, and critical thinking.
Growth on the diamond also brings financial stability to pros, who can have a lucrative career for many years. Professional softball leagues offer player benefits like insurance or travel reimbursements. Plus, teams of all sizes help athletes make lifelong friendships – memories that last after they retire.
Softball is still seen as an amateur sport. No worldwide professional league exists. Yet, some have attempted to make one. A few semi-professional leagues are out there.
Aspiring professionals should aim to join the NPF or other semi-pro leagues. That way they can show off their talents and gain experience at the highest level.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is there a professional softball league?
A: Yes, there are several professional softball leagues. The National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) is the most prominent professional softball league in the United States. It is composed of six teams across the country.
Q: What teams are in the National Pro Fastpitch?
A: The National Pro Fastpitch consists of the Akron Racers, Chicago Bandits, Dallas Charge, Pennsylvania Rebellion, Scrap Yard Dawgs, and USSSA Florida Pride.
Q: Where can I find more information about the National Pro Fastpitch?
A: You can find more information about the National Pro Fastpitch on their official website at www.profastpitch.com.