its Winter Meetings this week (Dec. 3-4) in Atlanta, National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) the premier womens pro softball league will host team owners and GMs as they work with Commissioner Cheri Kempf to manage the ongoing success of one of the fastest-growing professional sports leagues in the country.
On the table will be issues that most fledgling sports organizations would love to be dealing with. Attendance is up. TV coverage and viewership is on the rise. The six-team league is expanding with new club franchises in major metropolitan markets like Houston. The stars of the league the best fastpitch softball players in the world are revered by fans. Womens softball, as evidenced by record TV ratings each year for the Womens College World Series, is more popular than ever.
Regardless, I do think that Canada is an untapped market for softball and the NPF should be looking at franchises north of the border. However, I am not sure does the NPF have a league ownership model or are each of the franchises individually owned? That would make a huge difference with potential teams.
An American city that seems to have a softball pedigree is Oklahoma City. I think it would be a great market for the NPF to place a team in. Yes, it does not have the same cache as say New York, Seattle or other potential cities, but I have always been of the opinion that butts in the seats and profitability is always better than name cache.
I do think if softball returns to the Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo, the NPF will benefit greatly. Instead of being a league that only the most diehard of sports fans and the few locals to the teams know about, suddenly it will be like when the Women's World Cup of soccer happened. It took players that were obscure to most people and turned them into household names. The same would happen with the Olympics. The Olympic exposure (despite the time difference between Tokyo and North America), could even be parlayed into some semblance of a TV deal.
What I have always wondered is why the MLB Network doesn't show any NPF games? If I remember right MLB and NPF forged some sort of working agreement. I don't remember the details, but I am sure some of it was marketing help. Since MLB owns their own channel and has a programming void. There are only so many times you can air Intentional Talk before it becomes redundant. So it would make sense for the MLB Network to fill some of that void by airing NPF games. Even if they only aired a Game of the Week on say Sunday afternoons and then carried the NPF Championship Series, that would be far better than what they tend to show otherwise.
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The ASA maintains its headquarters in OKC and Hall of Fame Stadium is there, so little other infrastructure is needed. The only downside is the ASA would have scheduling priorities, since they hold a lot of tournaments there.