USSSA Pride CEO Don DeDonatis didn't get to see his team win in Sunday's series finale against the Chicago Bandits at Rocky Johnson Field, but he said the weekend was far from a failure.
After five days of professional softball in Lubbock between the top two teams in National Pro Fastpitch, DeDonatis was thrilled with the way the weekend turned out for a league seeking to grow its fan base.
"There was a big financial commitment by everybody to do this, and I think that no matter what happens on paper, it was still a success," said DeDonatis, who is also the chairman of the board and Pride general manager. "It's not always dollars, it's what you can do for the future of the sport and where you're going to go. And like every other business, you have to establish yourself."
Neither DeDonatis nor Scott Harrison, sports director of Visit Lubbock, knew Sunday whether there would be profits from the event, but both were pleased with the crowd turnout. So much so, in fact, that both would like to see the event return to Lubbock next year.
Harrison said more than 400 kids participated in the three days of clinics, which was more than either team has ever hosted. And more than 1,300 fans came to Saturday night's ESPN-televised game, which featured a pitching duel between Cat Osterman and Jennie Finch.
"I think it just shows what kind of following that women's fastpitch has right now," Harrison said. "It starts down with the young kids and goes all the way up."
The Bandits hammered out an 8-2 win in the rubber match of the five-game series.
Christina Knauer hit an inside-the-park homer in the second inning, and Rachel Forlan added to a catalog of home runs in the series with her third, a solo shot in the third inning.
Finch went 2 for 3 with an RBI and closed out the final 11/3 innings in the circle.
DeDonatis and Finch said they would like to see NPF add teams and give more opportunities to girls who grow up wanting to play professionally.
That goal may not be that far off, DeDonatis said.
"I watched the college world series this year, and some of the top players at the big schools are freshmen and sophomores," DeDonatis said. "And our goal is that someday, a few years from now, when they're seniors, they'll have a place to play in a professional league. I'm thinking 12 to 16 teams."
In order to reach that point, DeDonatis said the league needs to continue exposing itself to different markets across the country.
Finch said she enjoyed her time in Lubbock and felt the locale was the perfect place to kick off the 2010 NPF season.
"Texas is a hotbed for softball," she said. "The fans were awesome.
"We would love to come back to Lubbock."
To comment on this story:
email@example.com l 766-8736
firstname.lastname@example.org l 766-8735
PRO SOFTBALL/Kickoff to NPF season a hit in Lubbock