[Chicago, IL]National Pro Fastpitch League (NPF) President/CEO Bill Conroy and six league players, including five Olympic gold medalists such as Jennie Finch, gathered today in Chicago for a press conference to announce plans for the 2005 season which kicks off next month. Among the announcements are six teams in the league, inclusion of star-powered athletes including 11 Olympic gold medalists, expanded television coverage and an aggressive game schedule that includes international competition.
The 2005 season marks the first year the NPF League is under new ownership, which consists of an operating group of individual team owners led by Conroy. The NPF League kicks off the 2005 season with six teams: Akron Racers, Arizona Heat, Comcast Chicago Bandits, New England Riptide, NYJuggernaut and Texas Thunder. The Comcast Chicago Bandits, owned by Conroy, are an expansion team that captured national attention earlier this year with the signing of Olympic gold medalists Jennie Finch, Leah O'Brien-Amico, alternate Jamie Clark and Canadian Olympic pitcher Lauren Bay.
The talent of the female athletes in the league combined with the strength of the teams, expanded TV coverage and a competitive schedule with international play marks an exciting time for womens professional softball, NPF President/CEO Bill Conroy said. The 2005 season will focus on building game attendance, sponsorships and attracting potential team owners to the NPF.
In addition to a 48-game regular season schedule, the NPF will also compete against the Australian, Canadian, Chinese, Russian and Venezuelan National teams. NPF has also opened the pool of opponents to include potential teams and owners in 2006 and beyond. The nationally recognized Stratford Brakettes already announced their plans to join the NPF in 2006. Additional teams include the Phoenix Flames, SoCal Schutt Hurricanes, Peoria Outlaws, Illinois Cougars, St. Louis Saints and the Long Island Angels.
The NPF has negotiated a deal with ESPN/ESPN2 to televise the Playoffs and Championships (August 2728). Individual teams have the rights to negotiate their own television and radio deals. The NY Juggernaut announced a deal with Regional News Network and the Chicago Bandits with Comcast to each broadcast 8 games.
NPF teams will be playing home games at premium softball facilities, many of which have been upgraded for the 2005 season. Teams showcasing new facilities include the Comcast Chicago Bandits (Benedictine Sports Complex) the NY Juggernaut (Hofstra University), and Texas Thunder (Big League Dreams Sports Park). Tickets are available now for the season and start at under $10 for individual games.
Its exciting to be part of the NPF and have the opportunity to play at the professional level and showcase our skills as softball players, Jennie Finch, pitcher for the Comcast Chicago Bandits, said. I am excited to be part of the NPF and look forward to a successful season.
Players present at todays press conference included Crystl Bustos (Akron Racers), Leigh Ann Ellis (New England Riptide), Jennie Finch (Comcast Chicago Bandits), Amanda Freed (Texas Thunder), Lovieanne Jung (Arizona Heat) and Natasha Watley (NY Juggernaut).
NPF players reported to spring training this week and the season kicks off June 2, with the exception of the Arizona Heat who begin their season on Thursday.
Major League Baseball is the Official Development Partner of National Professional Fastpitch in the category of women's professional fastpitch softball. The partnership, which began the fall of 2002, is part of The Commissioner's Initiative on Women and Baseball, a league-wide effort to help Major League Baseball and the 30 Major League Clubs build stronger relationships with female audiences.
The National Pro Fastpitch League is headquartered in Denver, Colorado. The league, created to give elite female fastpitch players the opportunity to pursue a professional career in their chosen sport, has operated since 1997 under the names Womens Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Womens Pro Softball League (WPSL).
For more information on the NPF and todays press conference including photos visit: http://clients.teamworksmedia
(photo credit: Evan J. Thomas)