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The history of softball and its struggle to stay in the game

Nick Arrietta, Staff Writer

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The game of women’s fast pitch softball has been around for over 100 years, so many would think that the game is steady and that the players must be doing pretty well for themselves; but sadly that is not the case. Softball players have had it rough ever since the first professional league was founded in 1976. Whether it’s players not being able to live off of the meager salary or the league only having seven professional teams, softball has not been taken seriously. 

The game of softball was invented in in 1887 on Thanksgiving day. Eighty-nine years later the first-ever professional softball league was founded in 1976. The contracts were only 1,000 to 3,000 dollars per year.  Sadly, the league was over in 1980 because of financial ruin. Luckily there was another league that was rising in popularity in 1982, and in that year the first-ever softball world championship was held.

Even through the many struggles, women’s softball was able to hit a huge new height in 1996 when it became an Olympic medal sport. But in 2009 the sport was denied to go to Berlin for the 2016 Olympics. It was the first time in 70 years that any sport had been removed, the last being in 1936 with the sport polo. Even though softball was denied in 2016, it has been decided that they will compete again in the 2020 summer games. 

Most professional softball players start at a young age and work their way up to college fast pitch. They are then drafted to one of the seven professional teams: Arizona Heat, Texas Thunder, New England Riptide, Philadelphia Force, Connecticut Brakettes , and the Akron Racers.

According to The New York Times, “each team is limited to 20 players, with a salary cap of $150,000.” In comparison, according to statista.com the lowest salary cap for the MLB was the Oakland Athletics with 62.65 million dollars.

Softball players’ salary depends on years and experience. Players usually make 6,000 to 8,000 dollars a year. The bigger players make up to 20,000. In comparison, the average MLB player makes more than 3 million. Softball players cannot live of their small salary, so in order to make more money they have to work other part time jobs like coaching younger kids and facilitating sports camps to help pay the bills.

I was able to talk to the owner and general manager of the professional team the Akron Racers, Joey Arrietta, about why softball lags so far behind baseball. “Baseball has the history, the corporate endorsements, and the television on their side; we don’t,” she explained.

Arrietta’s vision for softball in twenty years is one of equity. “I would love for it to be like the American League, to have a central and western division. I would also like to have 12 to 18 teams, but as of today we can support it.”

The struggles and hardships of softball gained awareness at the international film festival with the documentary called Burn the Ships , in which Joey Arrietta and many other softball stars were able to discuss the obstacles of professional softball.  

Other movies like A League of their Own, which starred Tom Hanks and Geena Davis in 1992, drew attention to the sports’ struggles to gain momentum and respect. 

Softball has been fighting for 123 years and is not going to stop any time soon. It is full of hungry players who want to be heard and seen and await their chance. 

 

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The history of softball and its struggle to stay in the game