Global health is not to be confused with international health

Leagues

The National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) is a women’s professional fastpitch softball league that has been in existence since 1997.  Prior to 2002, it was known as the Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL).   What follows is the history of the NPF as found on their website at http://www.profastpitch.com/about/history/.


The WPSL captured the attention of fastpitch softball fans worldwide when it exploded onto America’s sports scene in 1997.  The WPSL regularly showcased an unparalleled brand of fastpitch softball played by the world’s best female athletes.

 
The WPSL can trace its origins back to the first professional softball league.  Former LPGA Tour member Janie Blaylock, softball legend Joan Joyce and tennis icon Billie Jean King, found the International Women’s Professional Softball Association (IWPSA) in 1976.  The league featured 10 teams in cities across the nation, including Meriden, Conn., Chicago, Ill., Prescott, Ariz., and San Jose, Calif.  In the WPSA’s first season, each team played a 120-game schedule that featured 60 doubleheaders.
 
The fledgling association survived four seasons before lack of funds, high travel costs and inadequate facilities ultimately led to its demise.  Despite the absence of a professional league, the following decade proved to be extremely prosperous for the sport of fastpitch softball in the United States.
 
In 1982, the NCAA began to sanction the Women’s College World Series, a move that led to increased participation and exposure for the sport.
 
Internationally, the USA Softball Women’s National Team won back-to-back gold medals at the 1986 ISF World Championship and the 1987 Pan American Games.  The college game also benefited from rule changes enacted in 1987 that increased the game’s offensive output and ultimately its popularity.  Some felt it was the perfect time to reintroduce the world to professional softball, but few acted upon the beliefs.  Former Utah State University softball player Jane Cowles was in the minority.
 
Along with her collegiate head coach John Horan, Cowles developed a plan for a women’s professional fastpitch softball league.  In February 1989, she introduced a blueprint for the league to her parents John and Sage Cowles, owners of the Cowles Media Company, who agreed to provide financial backing for the endeavor.
 
Field research and market studies began later that fall and continued to take place through 1993.  In January 1994, plans for a barnstorming tour were announced, and 18 months later two teams composed of former collegiate all-stars player exhibition games in cities throughout the Midwest.  The tour was an overwhelming success and provided the framework for a true professional league.
 
Eight years of successful research and planning finally culminated in May 1997, with the Cowles family and title sponsor AT&T Wireless Services launching Women’s Pro Fastpitch (WPF).  After completing two seasons as WPF, officials changed the name to WPSL in 1998.
 
On November 21, 2002, WPSL announced a rebranding strategy and official name change to National Pro Fastpitch.  Major League Baseball partnered with NPF as its Official Development partner as a continuation of MLB’s efforts to connect with female athletes and women.