USSSA Pride and Chicago Bandits Tangle Thursday Night in Viera

USSSA Pride and Chicago Bandits Tangle Thursday Night in Viera

Some of you know of my love for sports and for softball in particular. Last night two of the best teams in National Pro Fastpitch met at Space Coast Stadium in Viera. The rain-delayed contest ended with the Pride on top, 3-0. Pride slugger Lauren Chamberlain went yard twice on Kaia Parnaby, the Bandit’s rookie hurler in her professional debut. Both shots were no-doubters; Bandits outfielders took a step or two and then watched those bright yellow spheres sail on through the night sky.

These are good times for fans, supporters and players of the game of softball. As many of you may know, softball and baseball will be played in the Olympic Games again in Tokyo in 2020. See my posting on that IOC decisionĀ from back on August 6, 2016 if you’d like.

Though it may be true that professional softball is small potatoes compared to big league baseball, the N.P.F. is working hard to keep the sport thriving. The USSSA Pride is the league’s showcase team and if you’re a fan here in the Central Florida area, their home field, Space Coast Stadium, is just down the road. Well, just take exit 195 from I-95 and you’re there!

I’ve been in Florida for a very, very long time and I really don’t like those nasty, sticky, scorching summers we all learn to endure down here. Trips to the beach and the ballpark are my two best strategies to thrive and survive while we wait for the arrival of milder temps and fall sports! It’s working for me!

See you at the ballpark!

 

Ballpark Bulldog Ben

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

 

 

 

Excellent Article on ESPN Sportscaster Jessica Mendoza

Like so many big-time sports fans, I spend quite a bit of time watching ESPN. The variety of programming on the network’s five channels is extraordinary. Sunday Night Baseball is one of the ESPN productions I especially like. It’s got a large audience. And I think it’s safe to say that the SNB regulars lean towards the traditional side, as is true of baseball fans in general.

Former softball great Jessica Mendoza is the most recent addition to the SNB broadcast team. Some ESPN viewers were less than pleased with the change. To help give some context, a quick run-down on Jess for those of you who aren’t softball fans: she had a stellar career as an outfielder for the Stanford Cardinals from 1999 – 2003 and helped lead Stanford to their only softball College World Series appearance in her senior campaign. Jessica was no slouch with a glove but was especially known for her stellar hitting skills; she still ranks in the NCAA top-ten in four hitting categories: doubles, triples, RBI’s and walks.

Her career continued as an Olympian for Team USA. The Americans took the gold in Athens in 2004 and the silver four years later in Beijing; Jessica’s considerable skills at the plate were one of our softball squad’s most potent weapons.

National Pro Fastpitch is the only professional softball league in the U.S., and Jessica had a fine career at the professional level as well, playing for the now-defunct Arizona Heat and the USSSA Pride, the squad based out of Champion Stadium at ESPN Wide World of Sports. That fine facility at Disney is perhaps best known as the home field for the Atlanta Braves for preseason (spring) baseball.

Jessica was not new to ESPN at the time she was tapped for a slot on SNB. The story of how she came to join the crew full-time after a clearly racist tweet from Curt Schilling is well-known to many baseball fans. I think Jessica is a fine addition to the Sunday Night line-up and I don’t feel at all as though it’s some sort of tokenism on the part of ESPN management. Not by a long shot. Ms. Mendoza has paid her dues and is an excellent fit. And although not a few fans — and even some players — are not happy that a woman has joined the Sunday Night team, I think she’ll continue to earn high marks for her work on America’s premier sports network.

Kayla Lombardo is an Associate Editor for Excelle Sports, a net zine that covers womens’ sports. Her fine feature on Jessica and her work for ESPN came out this last Thursday; I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It’s common knowledge that womens’ sports receives just a tiny fraction of the coverage the men get. And let’s get real: that is not going to change anytime in the near future. Perhaps it never will.

That being the case, it’s such a good thing that there are publications like Excelle Sports. I’ve been very impressed to see how well they have the scene covered. If you do have an interest in womens’ athletics, Kayla’s article on Jessica Mendoza could be a great introduction to the work done by Excelle. To read Ms. Lombardo’s fine and in-depth article, justĀ follow this link.

Hooray for womens’ athletics! And for Jessica Mendoza. And ESPN. They contribute greatly to the sports scene here in America and beyond.

Now excuse me as I get off the net and tune to Fox to catch game five of the 2016 World Series. I’m hoping the Cubs can keep alive their hopes for ending the curse and taking it all! Their chances don’t look all that good, to be frank. I enjoy the Series so much more when it goes all the way to seven games. If it doesn’t this year, I could bear the disappointment much better if Dan, Aaron Boone and Jessica were calling the game!

The Chicago Bandits Do It Again

The Chicago Bandits Do It Again

On Tuesday night the Chicago Bandits took the Cowles Cup for the second straight year. I know that Professional softball is not on the typical sports fan’s radar, but I’m a serious fan of the game and watching the National Pro Fastpitch Championship was pure delight!

Those of you who know me from the real world, know that I have long roots in Central Florida; a part of my interest in the NPF league stems from the fact that the Chicago Bandits took former UCF pitcher Shelby Turnier in last year’s draft; I just loves me some Knights sports! She was the first pick in the second round, eleventh overall. Shelby had a very good year as an NPF frosh and really shined in the post-season.

Turnier got nine innings of work in three games in the NPF playoffs and didn’t allow a single run. Her ERA was 3.69 at the end of the regular season and shrank to 3.22 with her strong performances against the Scrap Yard Dawds and the front-running USSSA Pride.

As a staff, the Bandits performed well overall. Angel Bunner was solid — as was Michelle Gascoigne — but when you look at the stats, Shelby was on fire. She has positioned herself as one of the best relievers in the business, and she — and the Bandits organization — have to be very pleased with her inaugural season.

For more about National Pro Fastpitch, the only Womens’ Professional softball league in the U.S., follow this link.

 

Photo UCF Athletics used with permission