THE FIRST STOP AS WPSL TOURS MIDWEST AS POSSIBLE HOME FOR PROFESSIONAL
IL--Northern Illinois University boasts a long and storied tradition for
its softball success. The school etches another chapter in that history
next Tuesday (June 4) when the Women's Professional Softball League (WPSL)
begins a barnstorming Midwestern tour in DeKalb.
WPSL All-Stars kick off the regional swing at NIU's Mary M. Bell Field,
facing the Lady Rage in a 6 p.m. doubleheader. Admission to the event
is $5 per person with tickets available at the gate on the day of the
professional league begins plans for a "re-birth" of sorts,
suspending the 2002 season while looking for new markets for expansion.
That broadening horizon produced the trip to DeKalb, the (Chicago) Bulls-White
Sox Training Academy signed a letter of intent to own and operate a WPSL
expansion team in the Chicago area, while the lighted field on the DeKalb
campus allows NIU to open the tour.
fact that the WPSL is starting its tour here says a lot about the tradition
(NIU associate athletics director) Dee Abrahamson and (softball coach)
Donna Martin have started here in DeKalb," said assistant coach Kevin
Welch. "NIU has hosted a lot of top softball events, including the
Illinois High School Association (Class AA) state tournament finals (1998
through 2000) and the Mid-American Conference tournament (1999 and 2000).
It is a great atmosphere with the lights, and this is a great opportunity
to see professional-level softball in DeKalb."
WPSL roster features 1996 Olympic Gold Medalists Julie Smith and Kim Maher,
along with league Most Valuable Player Patti Benedict plus loop standouts
Julie Crandall, Lyndsey Klein, Carla Bookbank, Moni Armendarez, Amy Kyler
and Kellyn Tate. Long-time NIU fans may recognize Kyler's name as a pitcher
at Cleveland State University during the Huskies' stay in the Midwestern
Collegiate Conference. Northern Illinois won the MCC title in 1996, advancing
to the NCAA tournament. NIU's heritage includes a seventh-place showing
at the NCAA Women's College World Series in 1988.
softball is developing a big following, a large fan base," Welch
added. "With the success of American Softball Association (ASA) teams
and the growth of college softball in the Midwest, it is nice to be able
to draw an event like this to DeKalb. It's a chance to witness top-caliber
players at a great facility like Mary M. Bell Field, and offers players
of all ages to see the different levels of softball between high school,
college, and national-level."
Lady Rage roster features former WPSL and collegiate players looking for
spots on league rosters in 2003, with the three-month tour providing an
audition as part of the WPSL's plan for future expansion. The league is
expected to return from its one-year hiatus in 2003 with between six and
ten teams spread across the nation, with future plans for as many as 12
teams by 2004. The WPSL traces its roots to 1997 with the advent of Women's
Professional Fastpitch (WPF). After completing two seasons as WPF, officials
changed the name to WPSL in 1998.
the new league structure, eight independently owned and operated teams
will play 24 home games between June 1 and August 31, starting in 2003.
This represents a departure from the past five years when the Denver-based
league and its six teams were owned by a single entity.
WPSL featured four teams in 2001---the Akron Racers, Florida Wahoos, Ohio
Pride and Tampa Bay FireStix. Florida defeated Ohio in the championship
series held in Springfield, MO. Other possible sites for teams in 2003
include Boston, St. Louis and Cincinnati.
-- Copy by Robert Hester