We had the opportunity to sit-down the Cheri Kempf, the National Professional Fastpitch Commissioner. Through our discussions, we learned about her history in the sport of softball, the impact the NPF is having through softball on a global scale, as well as what fans can expect this season!
Kempf was a highly decorated college, amateur and national softball player that highlighted her career pitching for the USA National Team in 1992, earning a gold medal in the World Cup in Beijing, China. She started her own business in 1990 called Club K which grew to become the world’s largest training facility for women’s fastpitch softball. Since 2000, Kempf has been a popular television analyst for college and professional softball, working with ESPN, Fox Sports, MLB Network, Cox Sports, YES Network and Comcast Sports. She has also become a staple in ESPN’s coverage of the NCAA Tournament and for 10 seasons was the studio analyst for the Women’s College World Series. [NPF Website]
College softball became wildly popular on the heels of it becoming a sport in the Olympics in 1996. It was a higher priority for colleges because of the opportunity to play in the Olympics, and therefore, you saw it start to it explode on the college level. Softball grew in global popularity and received government funding when it became an Olympic sport in 1996.
When softball was added to the Olympics in 1996, the attention for the sport increased in countries that didn’t show any interest in the past. Kempf said â€œSoftball programs from around the world received government funding from their countries to grow the programs, so we saw countries that never had softball, we saw them adding the sport, which was super exciting! In 2008, when they removed softball from the Olympics, we saw the exact opposite happen!â€
Funding was pulled from these programs around the world when softball was removed from the Olympics in 2008. In the 1996 Olympics, China was a powerhouse team that played in the Gold Medal against the United States and earned the silver medal. Fast forward to 2017, China has been sitting at a decade of non-funding from their government for their softball team. They [China] knew if they were going to have any chance for qualifying for the Olympics in 2020, they had to try and make up time quickly, therefore, they included their national team into the NPF.
Kempf stated that, “In 2017, China ended up only winning a total of 2 games out of the 50-game season in the NPF. This was the result of the loss of funding. They weren’t able to continue to build, develop new skills, and play at a high level of competition.”
Australia also sent a handful of players to compete in the NPF during the 2017 season. The following season, they sent their entire team because they knew the team needed those 50 games at the top-level competition that the NPF provided to help prepare them for qualifications into the Olympics.
The NPF features National Teams from Australia, China, Mexico, and Canada. They are also excited to welcome the Italy National Team that will play a few exhibition games throughout the season. Kempf spoke of the advantages that the NPF provides and explained that the international teams have the ability to play in a competitive atmosphere that will prime and hone their skills before entering the 2020 Summer Olympics.
The NPF is incorporating a new format in their schedule due to the 2020 Summer Olympics. In the previous seasons, they’ve used a schedule that featured the typical head-to-head format and a balanced schedule. However, the 2020 NPF season is going to host multi-series team events that have multiple teams play in one location. It creates a little more flexibility in the schedule. Kempf believes that, “This will produce a lot of excitement for the fans and create a great atmosphere and energy around the series.”
Kempf spoke on the partnership between the NPF and She Plays. “We know how important this is in engaging fans and we are thrilled to be able to offer this as a product that will allow fans a higher level of involvement in a sport and league that they love. Giving fans this opportunity through the She Plays platform is going to be a game-changer!”
The National Pro Fastpitch is hosting its Draft Day on March 30th in Rosemount, Illinois at 8:00 pm EST. Watch the draft LIVE on Facebook. We’re excited to watch players’ dream come true as they start their next adventure with their new team!
She Plays is thrilled to announce our partnership with the National Pro Fastpitch League! This partnership will allow greater visibility and financial support for the league, and through the partnership, they will become an official fantasy league offering on the She Plays platform. We will also provide a new level of engagement for fans and followers of the well-established professional softball league.
Listen to Cheri Kempf’s full interview with She Plays’ Founder, Ashley Hart.