You take a deep breath and shake out the nerves. You’ve faced the toughest opponents, claimed a division title and played on the biggest stage, but none of them quite felt as terrifying as this.
Your breath catches as the MC yells out your name. You’ve made it. You just got drafted to the National Pro Fastpitch League (NPF).
“As a league, we have drafted the top names in college softball over the past 15 years,” recounted National Pro Fastpitch Commissioner Cheri Kempf. “We have seen those players come into the league and sustain the high level of completion the NPF for which the NPF is known. Above all, that is what we are most proud of and what we most look forward to in the Draft.”
Today, April 15, is one of the biggest days in softball—Draft day. The 2019 NPF College Draft is being held at ACME Feed and Seed in Nashville for the third consecutive year.
It’s the day college softball players wait for to see if they’ll continue their careers. The draft has become an opportunity for the greatest athletes in each sport to show how far they’ve come and may, in fact, turn into one of the greatest days of their lives.
“It is a celebration of accomplishment for college players to have excelled to the point of being selected to play professional softball,” explained Kempf. “It is the most overt link between the two separate entities of college and professional softball and it represents a moment of accomplishment for the athletes themselves.”
But it’s not just a big deal for the athletes.
She continued, “It is [also] an opportunity for the league, its teams, owners and staff to show the enthusiastic audience of college softball, who and what the NPF is about. It is an opportunity for us to build and grow our brand through the celebration of our future.”
It seems worth the effort, as the best college athletes begin to create a better league and help build a tough US Women’s National Softball Team. However, it’s no small effort to get there.
Every year the league starts preparing for the draft months in advance. With up to five representatives from each team, veteran players, draft hopefuls and families expected to attend, the NPF hires a 40-person team to work tirelessly to book the venue, plan the event and prepare a place for media.
And the results make the endless hours of prep worth it.
“We see the draft as an event, away from competition, that showcases the NPF and its future. Because of the athletes it features, both veterans and draftees, it shows the strength of the league both in talent and athlete celebrity.”
After all the work, though, the draft is really just a big celebration of softball and the outstanding athletes who play.
While fans watching over the broadcast stream get sent to commercial breaks, the pressure of competition disappears, and players, coaches, general managers, and team owners spend time bonding over their united love of the sport. Some bubble in excitement as they bump along to the music playing over the house speakers, while others hustle through a quick interview before the viewers come back.
“The event is fun and exciting, but most of all, unique in the women’s professional sports space,” stated Kempf, “and because of that, I think it is an event that people really enjoy watching. All of that creates an enthusiasm and interest in the league that undoubtedly adds to its growth and popularity.”
This year’s draft offers nothing but excitement for viewers and attendees.
Everyone will hear from some of the biggest names in softball and enjoy live music throughout the event. And, of course, watch top recruits like Ole Miss Outfielder Kylan Becker and Kentucky Utility Abbey Cheek wait to join the league. Fans should also be on the lookout for a significant historic moment at this year’s draft as “colleges have their first pick” for the first time in draft history.
According to Kempf, “fans will hear from GMs, the Commissioner, some of NPF’s corporate partners, and the Player of the Year, Brenna Moss,” as well as hear live music by Taryn Papa who “will leave the show with original music written for NPF’s 2019 season of streaming.”
A special thanks to Cheri Kempf and all of the talented people involved with the NPF (a YSPN360 partner).
Contributor: Whitney Worthen, YSPN360 Staff Writer