When you think of Opening Day chances are, you think of baseball. The end of March into the beginning of April, with imagery of the ol’ MLB. Stadiums are packed across America, with young and old. There are powerful echoes of the National Anthem, followed by breathtaking flyovers. There are first pitches—and then there are first pitches. That first hit, that first run. That first, final out! It’s truly something special.
But did you know there is another Opening Day, one with similar sights and sounds? There are National Anthems. Smiles on faces, mixed with nervousness and anticipation. Bats. Balls. Gloves. Eyeblack. There are next generations of dreamers, admiring the current group in the dugout who are living it. But, where there might be a Trout jersey, there is now a Carda jersey. Sure, you’ll see a Chicago jersey with No. 23 and No. 17 on it—but the fans are excited to see that it’s Kristyn Sandberg and Haylie Wagner (Sorry, Kris and MJ). And, if you ask Haylie, she is JUST as excited:
Opening Day feels like being a little kid on Christmas morning and seeing all the presents from Santa! It reminds me that all the hard work, dedication, and being good all year paid off!
Yep, this Opening Day is also something special, and it comes courtesy of the National Pro Fastpitch League.
The 16th season began yesterday, between the Beijing Shougang Eagles and the Canadian Wild (Southern Illinois), and leads the action into June, where the other teams—the Chicago Bandits, USSSA Pride, Aussie Peppers (Minnesota), and Cleveland Comets will begin the 2019 season. All of them will be aiming for the NPF title in August…while also working to grow the league, the sport, and help inspire the next generation of softball players.
Behind all of these hard-working ladies and teams are equally hard-working ladies, like Cheri Kempf—the NPF Commissioner whose effort to promote the game of softball, from the youth levels to the college ranks and beyond, is remarkable. Her passion for Opening Day is no different.
Opening Day for Season 16 of National Pro Fastpitch is exciting to me because we are growing the professional audience, both in live action viewing through streaming, and in-venue, and fans are going to be treated to some amazing action in 2019!
And she ain’t lying!
The term Must-See TV is thrown around rather loosely these days, but the NPF—the game of softball, really—is turning into something special that is worth a look. And that isn’t just an opinion being shouted from a one-man island, either. The recent TV exposure and quality of games at the NCAA level have people taking notice, including professional athletes from other sports. Take it away, Mr. Westbrook:
And not just professional athletes from other sports—ICONS from other sports:
Mix that in with the TV partnerships that will provide content to some 200 international areas (and the ease of watching NPF games), plus the talented women who will be crossing the lines today and into the next week, and the growth possibilities for the league are endless. The impact could be endless, especially for young girls—flipping the script on the classic imagery of aspiring athletes huddled around their hero, staring in awe while being told: “They can be whatever they want to be when they grow up…”
Now, young girls can have that same inspiration. They can take the now-infamous phrase from The Sandlot and say, “Yes, yes I do. And thank you for the compliment.”
So, let’s PLAAAAAAAYYYYY BALLLLLL (like a GIRL!)!
Special thanks to Haylie Wagner and Cheri Kempf. YSPN360 is a partner with the NPF—and we look forward to continuing to help grow the game of softball while impacting the lives of youth athletes and their families!
Contributor: Rick Suter, YSPN360 Editor