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From: rprstrike3@aol.com
Newsgroups: rec.sport.softball
Subject: WPF Interview
Date: 4 Dec 1996 07:02:31 GMT
 

WPF - WOMEN'S PROFESSIONAL FASTPITCH 

A big thanks to Vince Denny who obtained the phone number of the PR Director, Bruce Wolfe. The following is the information that was faxed to me by Bruce.


WPF At a Glance 

Women's Professional Fastpitch (WPF) was created to provide elite fastpitch athletes with the opportunity to compete at the professional level, and to provide affordably-priced entertainment for the entire family.
 
WPF will launch a league of their own in June 1997. The league will consist of six teams located in the southeast region of the United States. Teams will be located in Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Tampa, Fla.; Orlando, Fla.; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; and Hampton/Newport News, Va. Expansion of the league is planned to encompass the entire United States.
 
League play will consist of a 72-game schedule, with 36 home games during June, July and August. League play will be followed by a chmpionship series. All-Stars from the league will be chosen for a post-season contest, "The International Challenge." This contest, billed as the first, true world series and will be a match-up between WPF All-Stars and teams from one of 83 countries that currently play fastpitch. 

The Game:

The game is called "fastpitch" because a good pitcher throws an underhand fastball around 70 miles per hour.
 
The Women's Professional Fastpitch game has ben developed and tested extensively over the last five years. The resulting product both highlights and enhnces the world-class athletic talent on the field. The WPF game increases action on the field with greater run procduction, more extra-base hits and home runs and additional opportunities for outstanding defensive plays.

The Players:

In high schools and colleges across the country, fastpitch is for female athletes what baseball is for male athletes.
 
The WPF talent pool currently includes more than 250,000 high school varsity and 28,000 college fastpitch athletes as well as Olympic team members. In addition, several recreational amateur organizations, led by the sport's national governing body, Amateur Softball Association (ASA), field thousands of fastpitch teams nationally for girls and women to develop their talents outside of school programs. The average WPF player will be in their mid-20's and be a college graduate with over 10 years of playing experience.
 
WPF teams will consist of 15 players per team, WPF's first draft was in October 1995. The professional fastpitch roster includes athletes from small towns to big cities, coast to coast.

The Audience:

Over the past 10 years, the American audiences have shown steadily increasing fan interest and support for women's ahletics. Atendance at college sporting events continues to grow as does television viewership. WPF fans are a result of softball, America's number one participation sport, played by over 40 million people, and the growing interest in women's sports. WPF attracts spectators of all ages and especially families due to: affordable ticket prices ($3-$7), the WPF summer season-when schools are out, the game length of 2 1/4 hours, the unique action of fastpitch, outstanding female players and role models, and intimate stadiums that get the fans involved.

AT&T Wireless Services is Title Sponsor For the League:

Women ballplayers will once again have a league of their own with the national launch of Women's Professional Fastpitch (WPF), announced October 8, 1996 by WPF officials in Atlanta. AT&T Wireless Services is the title sponsor for the new league, which will begin regular season play in June of 1997.



Bruce was also kind enough to answer quite a few questions that I had. Here is what I found out about:
 

The Cities:

Tampa
Orlando, Fla.
Atlanta, Ga.
Charlotte, N.C.
Durham, N.C.
Hampton Rhodes, Va.
 

The Sponsor:

AT&T is the sponsor with a $1,000,000 commitment to the league.
 

The Field:

The games will be played in minor league baseball parks or college baseball parks. A sport fence will be used to give the field the following dimensions:
 
LF & RF lines: 220-230 feet approx.
CF: 240-250 feet approx.
 
The pitching distance they were testing during their tour was 49' compared to the 43' distance in college. The league has settled on a distance of 46' which is the same distance as men's fastpitch.
 
The bases were tested at 72' during their tour compared to the 60' distance in all fastpitch play. The league has settled on a distance of 65'.
 

The Equipment:

The ball they were testing on the tour was an 11" ball but the league has settled on a 12" ball for play. The core will be between .53 and .56 to make the ball more lively.
 
The bats will be more like baseball bats with more of a weighted end in order to produce more base hits and HR's.
 

The Rules:

The pitcher will have to start with both feet on the pitcher's plate. During the recent tour the league experimented with leading off. They have decided there ill be no leadoff but the runner can leave when the pitcher breaks hands for the pitch. They feel this will help compensate for the extra 5' on the basepaths.
 
All other rules will follow the college (NCAA) game.

The Umpires:

There will be only two officials for the game. I asked why only two officials when most NCAA teams have three. I also questioned the fact that play is suposed to be even a higher caliber than the college game. The reason is strictly for budgeting purposes. At this time the league is trying to get off the ground and costs are a concern.
 
The umpires will be chosen from the southeastern U.S. They will try and recruit the top college and amateur umpires in this area. The reason other parts of the country will not be considered is again for budgeting purposes. The money is not available to fly umpires in from other parts of the country. They will try and build a pool of umpires that will do a three game series and try to avoid having the teams see the same umpires all of the time. They are currently researching umpires at this time. If any umpires are interested that live in that part of the country, e-mail me and I can provide you with the league address to contact them.
 
Unfortunately, I failed to ask Bruce about umpire game fees but hopefully I can get an answer with a follow up interview.

The Players:

I asked about the players and if they had signed anyone yet. Bruce responded that they have no one under contract yet but will concentrate on signing players within the next 30-60 days. The average salary will be about $2000 per month. I asked if that was minimum salary or average salary and he stated that was the average salary. Some players will be paid more and others less. The season would require a commitment of 3 1/2 months. Training camps will start sometime the middle of May.
 
They will try and sign some Olympians. I brought up the question of Olympic & amateur eligibility. Bruce stated that the ISF is going to bring up the issue at the convention in San Diego in June of 1997. They will need a 2/3 vote to pass Olympic eligibility for professionals but the IOC is currently pushing for a positive vote to come in line with other sports such as baseball who just passed eligibility for professionals. He also stated that the ASA would like to see it pass. The season starts on June 3, 1997 so I will be curious to see how the top names players take a wait and see atitude towards their eligibility.
 

The Playoffs:

There will be a best of five series to decide the championship. The season will be split in half with a first half champion and a second half champion. Both teams will meet in the final series alternating between both teams home fields. The series will be held close to Labor Day weekend.
 

Television:

Bruce stated that they are still negotiating a TV contract with cable. He did not disclose any details as of yet but he did state that there will be games on TV but did not what local outlets you could expect it on.
 


Summary:

In summary, Bruce stated with some of the field, equipment and rule modifications that they would like to see more hits and runs scored in the game. For the most part these are minor changes and hopefully will make a more exciting product for the fan. For the softball purists, the changes are experimental and therefore can be adjusted for the next season. I would like to thank Bruce for the interview during this very busy time of league development as he was very gracious and truly interested in sharing this information for the benefit of our softball group. Bruce let me know I could follow up with other questions for all of you whom I sure have many unanswered questions still. Please e-mail me your questions and I will compile them and send them to Bruce to answer.
 
TrueBlue,
Rich Rosa
ASA & NCAA FP umpire
Salt Lake City, Utah