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2017 NPF

Championship Series

August 17-20

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Past Meets Future in Milwaukee

Past meets Future in Milwaukee
By Reed Saunders

Rare is the moment when the fates of time align in such a way that the ripple of the past and the flicker of the future meet in the wrinkle of the now.

Never would I have guessed I’d come across one on the concourse of a baseball park.

As a part of the Milwaukee Brewers’ “Women on Wednesday” promotions, meant to encourage female fans to come out to the ballgame, our NPF All-Star tour had a table on the right field concourse. Two players rotated every inning or so to sign autographs and converse with fans, much as we had done in Minneapolis and San Francisco before that.

For the better part of seven innings, things went according to plan. Our presence generated the interest of fans, young and old, female and male – a phenomenon that still happily amazes this columnist.

It wasn’t until the W.O.W. crowds had died down and our time at Miller Park was nearing an end when we realized we weren’t the only professional women’s ballplayers on the concourse that muggy June night.

There, amongst the throng of product-hawkers and credit card offers were two ladies sitting across the way from our National Pro Fastpitch table, signing autographs and conversing with passers-by much like us – Betty “Moe” Moczynski and Jacqueline Mattson Baumgart, both veterans of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

Suddenly, the 60-year gap in the history of women’s professional ball was narrowed to 15 feet.

Mattson Baumgart, a native of Newark, New Jersey, played two seasons in the AAGPBL, first with the Springfield Sallies in 1950 and then with the Kenosha Comets in 1951.

Milwaukee native Moczynski played as a member of the Rockford Peaches in 1943 and was a recent inductee into the Walls of Honor, a Brewers’ tribute to Wisconsin major league natives.

Of all the fans stopping to say hello to the two former players and members of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, the biggest fans might have been the current players of the NPF.

And why not? The NPF, afterall, could owe its very existence to Mattson Baumgart, Moczynski and the rest of the AAGPBL – the proverbial foremothers of women’s professional sports.

Beginning in 1943 as an effort to keep baseball going during World War II, the women’s professional league endured an amazing 11 years – eight of which while the men of Major League Baseball were going too – through 1954.

Their story, immortalized in the Hollywood movie, “A League of Their Own,” went on to inspire hundreds of thousands of women to follow their dreams in not just baseball and softball, but in athletics in general.

As a PR man, responsible for making sure things go accordingly on the concourse autograph tables, I was thankful our promotion had ended in the top of the seventh inning. Trying to pull members of our team away from the AAGPBL table would have been the hardest task of my summer.

On many occasions, our team has been referred to as pioneers. While that may be true within the spectrum of National Pro Fastpitch, our pioneers were quick to flock to the table of the true ancestors of the game.

I was an observer that day on the concourse, watching as fastpitch players from Arizona State and Texas Tech sat fascinated by baseball players for Rockford and Kenosha. But I’ve never felt more a part – or at least a party – to the history of athletics than when I had the pleasure to view two different groups of women talking together.

They might have been from different eras, listened to different music and showed off different hair-styles. All that mattered on this day was the fact they shared a dream.

Reed Saunders is a 2003 graduate of Colorado State University. He’ll be working public relations on the 2003 NPF All-Star tour this summer. Follow along with his travels with his weekly column on profastpitch.com.