The United States softball team just won another gold medal at the World Cup of Softball in Oklahoma City.
The “B” team, or the USA Futures team, won a bronze medal over Canada at the same World Cup.
Normally, this would look great for the future of a program.
Unfortunately, there is nowhere for softball to go.
The USA Futures are the younger athletes that Team USA will keep their eye on for the future of the program. With Jennie Finch retiring, a roster spot for a pitcher/first baseman has opened up. It will likely be filled with a USA Futures team member.
That being said, what is the future of the sport of softball? Where are these girls going to go?
There is a World Cup every year in Oklahoma City and World Championships every four years. The next World Championships will be held in 2012.
The USA just won the 2010 World Championships in which there were 16 teams participating.
Other than those couple of tournaments, the USA team plays exhibition games against Canada and Japan, but that is it for their season.
Many members also participate in the NPF, the National Pro Fastpitch League. This league once had as many as six teams. Now it has dwindled to four, with many of the teams also playing international teams, such as Team China and Denso Japan.
Taking softball out of the Olympics really hurt the sport. There are a ton of talented girls with no place to go. College softball truly is the last real stop for these girls.
Several girls on Team USA play professionally in Japan. Monica Abbott, Tammy Williams, and Eileen Canney are just a few that have ventured overseas to play.
In Japan, they can play nine months out of the year, instead of just three or four. With all of the NPF teams in cold-weather cities, they can only play from June to August.
There are probably a lot of people sitting there saying, “This is softball—who cares?” There are two USA teams, four NPF teams, over 100 college teams, and thousands of young girls who all care what happens to their sport.
Like it or not, softball is popular for young girls, and they deserve to have a chance to do something. They should have a chance to play in the Olympics for Team USA and win a gold medal.
Hopefully, the next few years will bring more fans and more teams to the NPF. It will also help continuing the USA Futures Team to bring more college softball players into international play. The next few years are very important to the sport.
If some things do not happen, there will be no future for the sport of softball. With the USA Futures Team winning a bronze medal, there is a bright future for the program, and people need to keep it going.