DENVER - (November 21, 2002) The five-year-old Women's Pro Softball League (WPSL), the only professional fastpitch softball league in the country, announced today that it has restructured under a new name, National Pro Fastpitch (NPF), and is preparing to launch a national Fastpitch Festival Tour in 2003, followed by official league play in 2004.
"Our new name is one of several key steps we've taken to further establish this league as a core member of emerging women's professional sports leagues. It is one component of a comprehensive new business model and branding strategy designed to ensure the long-term success of our league," said National Pro Fastpitch President Rich Levine. "We are in the final stages of securing strong local owners in excellent markets with quality facilities and solid community support. We are also in the process of developing powerful strategic partnerships that will help us grow and strengthen the league."
In conjunction with today's announcement regarding the launch of National Pro Fastpitch, Major League Baseball announced a developmental partnership with National Pro Fastpitch as part of The Commissioner's Initiative on Women and Baseball. National Pro Fastpitch will be Major League Baseball's exclusive development partner in the category of women's professional fastpitch softball.
"Major League Baseball is very proud of our new relationship with National Pro Fastpitch," said Commissioner of Baseball Allan H. (Bud) Selig. "We believe this is an opportunity for us to help the sport of fastpitch develop, and to introduce more women and girls to the joy of participating in softball."
Pro Fastpitch operations will begin in the summer of 2003 with an All-Star Fastpitch Festival Tour, featuring some of the world's best fastpitch players in action-packed exhibition games. The festival will also feature an array of interactive fan activities, including skills challenges, clinics for youth softball players, autograph sessions, product booths and live entertainment. The league also plans to work with Major League Baseball Clubs in several festival tour cities to integrate softball clinics and other National Pro Fastpitch festivities and appearances with Major League Baseball.
The 2003 Fastpitch Festival Tour will stop in 12-14 cities across the country from June to August, as a lead-in to league play in 2004. National Pro Fastpitch plans to have eight teams across the country for the 2004 season.
Softball is enjoying an unparalleled period of growth. Over the last decade, the success of the U.S. Olympic women's fastpitch team, coupled with the demand for more female sports opportunities, resulted in a 67.3 percent increase in the number of female softball players at the high school level from 1980-81 to 2000-01, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.
"Women dominate the sport of fastpitch, with over 1700 collegiate programs in the United States. In addition, millions of girls at the youth and high school level play slowpitch or fastpitch softball. National Pro Fastpitch is the only professional fastpitch league in this country where these athletes can make fastpitch a professional career," said Jane Cowles, National Pro Fastpitch board member and league founder.
National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) is headquartered in Denver, Colorado. The league was created to give elite women fastpitch players the opportunity to pursue a professional career in their chosen sport, while providing quality family entertainment and excellent role models for young girls. The league has operated since 1997 under the names Women's Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Women's Pro Softball League (WPSL).
National Pro Fastpitch is a proven television commodity. In the five-year history of the WPF and WPSL, the league has had 75 broadcasts on ESPN and ESPN2. The broadcasts had an average cumulative rating of .54 - the equivalent of 400,000 households each week. That track record exceeds the performance of many high profile ESPN2 properties.