Missouri Westerns softball team faced an all-star opponent Friday night. Local softball players, parents and fans united at Heritage Park as a National Pro Fastpitch all-star squad played an exhibition against the Griffons.
More than 800 people watched as the NPF united players from four teams to battle Western, the only Division II team to host a stop on its Back to School College Tour. St. Joseph was the fourth stop of a 25-game publicity tour.
The tour is to promote the womens professional league, basically womens and girls fastpitch softball in general and to bring attention to (the sport of softball), said Chuck Kempf, senior recreation supervisor for the St. Joseph Parks and Recreation Department. Some of the best players in the world are here ... and Missouri Western gets the opportunity to play them.
Olympians Cat Osterman, Lauren Lappin, Andrea Duran and Vicky Galindo signed autographs, mingled with young softball players and gave Missouri Western players a chance of a life time. Despite a 15-0 Missouri Western loss, Western coach Jen Bagley said the experience was irreplaceable.
For our Griffon team, I think its great to be able to one day say they went toe-to-toe with the best, Bagley said. This is a really neat opportunity that comes along once in a life time.
NPF commissioner, former United States national team player and St. Joseph native, Cheri Kempf, also met with fans, chatted with players and cheered on both teams as she supported the town that made her a local softball legend.
The rest of the country, especially with a four-team league, doesnt recognize there is a professional league ... so we want to go on a public relations tour to spread the word, Cheri Kempf said. One of the best places to play is colleges because ... it spreads the word to people to come (support softball).
Jaelyn Haggard, 11, watched the exhibition game with fellow teammates with dreams of becoming a professional.
(NPF softball players) taught me a lot of things, like to never give up and give it all you can, Haggard said. This is cool because it is good to experience (an exhibition game) so when I get older, I can learn from this.
Cheri Kempf said each of the professional players are college graduates and are role-models for young girls like Haggard. Lappin, a Standford University graduate, said from the support from fans and large crowd sizes, her experience has been amazing.
This is a great opportunity to get players from each of the four NPF teams out in front of the public and play the sport the way we do in the summer, Lappin said. We are really connected to our fans and it starts with these amazing women our here that are so invested in (softball).