Lauren Chamberlain, WPF Ready For Inaugural Season
Women’s Professional Fastpitch (WPF) looks to pick up where National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) left off and change the narrative this summer for professional softball. WPF was founded on showcasing the best that softball offers and keeping the game alive for players beyond their collegiate successes.
“There are so many powerful women that have left the game of softball because they didn’t have the right platform after college, and that is my job (to figure out),” WPF commissioner Lauren Chamberlain told Softball America. “How can we keep those women in the game? Because it is insane the amount of women that are just out there and they are doing incredible things, but I want to see them in cleats still, I want to see them swinging the bat still.”
Former Oklahoma star Lauren Chamberlain was picked to lead this next generation of professional softball players as the league’s commissioner. After her storied career at Oklahoma, where she once reigned as the NCAA career home run leader, Chamberlain played professional softball and worked with MLB as a show host and Youth Softball Ambassador, while also founding a sports management agency. With the main goal to grow WPF into a league that can flourish for years to come, Chamberlain comes in with remarkable success on and off the softball diamond.
“I get to mesh both worlds, business Lauren and softball Lauren,” Chamberlain said.
The WPF is headquartered in Oklahoma City and stands as a partnership between three forces in pro softball: USA Softball, USSSA and Smash It Sports.
“Definitely highlighting the relationship between USA Softball and USSSA,” Chamberlain said. “In the past that hasn’t always been the strongest relationship, so to have the two big dogs of softball come together for the betterment of the sport and really invest in that professional level is huge and important.”
Two franchise teams represent the league for its first season—the USSSA Pride of Viera, Fla. and the Smash It Sports Vipers of Rochester, N.Y.
The two teams will play each other and other teams outside of the league in a condensed, exhibition-style schedule that begins in Kansas City, Kan. on June 14.
Throughout the season, there will be stops around the United States, where existing youth tournaments are held as the WPF aims to attract future generations of softball players. Cities like Oxford, Ala., Evansville, Ind., Peoria, Ill. and Indianapolis, Ind. will have the opportunity to host the league and play a part in growing the game. The 2022 season will conclude back where it began in Viera on Aug. 6.
Since the WPF is in the early stages of development, the league plans on using this exhibition summer to take the steps to create a long-lasting and successful league.
In April, the WPF announced its partnership with students at the University of Oklahoma’s Gene Rainbolt Graduate School of Business. The partnership allows the students to help the league “collect data, strategize marketing plans and assist in growing fan engagement.”
“Timeline wise, we don’t want to be here for a blip on the radar,” Chamberlain said. “We want to do this the right way, and we understand that sometimes to speed up you have to slow down. With the exhibition-style, it is a very controlled environment. You are not going to see a big championship and big fireworks this first year because we understand that we are building something.”
On May 20, the WPF held its inaugural College Draft, where 12 standouts from across college softball were invited to join the league.
Selected as the No.1 overall pick by the Vipers was current NCAA home run leader and Oklahoma star Jocelyn Alo. University of South Florida pitcher and four-time American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year Georgina Corrick was selected as the No. 2 pick by the USSSA Pride.
Following those two stars were Mary Iakopo, Keely Rochard, Gianna Mancha, Danielle Watson, Annie Willis, Delanie Wisz, Shelbi Sunseri, Taylor Ellsworth, Melissa Mayeux and Casidy Chaumont, who were all respectively selected to continue their softball careers with WPF.
Having operated independently before joining the new league, the USSSA Pride will be returning numerous stars to its roster. Alongside the rookies will be veterans like Ali Aguilar, Haley Cruse Mitchell and Odicci Alexander, among others.
This summer and for many summers to come, Chamberlain and others within the league hope to drive home their mantra for operating and main campaign behind the WPF: to #ProtectHerDream.
“Just as we do to protect the men’s dreams and we funnel our capital and our tender love and care into what they are doing,” Chamberlain said. “How do we continue to do that for our women, and who is going to step up? It’s really a call to the masses.”