As my parents and I walked into ASA Hall of Fame Stadium, a security guard quietly told us to follow her.
Walking down a hallway and turning a corner, the “pop” of a glove grew louder and louder before we came to where Cat Osterman was warming up for Texas.
Growing up in Olney, Texas, Oklahoma City was only three hours away, and going to the Women’s College World Series every summer was a must.
That was the only exposure I had to collegiate softball – going to the Yes Clinic (now called Youth Clinic) before a Saturday full of softball games where I waited eagerly with my softball and a Sharpie after each contest for some autographs.
Monday night, the Waco community – who has one of the top softball programs in the country in Baylor – got a taste of professional softball as the National Pro Fastpitch league’s Texas Charge hosted the USSSA Pride in a regular season contest.
Behind 14 hits, the Pride topped the Charge 8-0. The Charge finished with only two hits on the evening.
“We have three teams in Texas now, I believe, professional organizations,” Baylor coach Glenn Moore said. “Their desire is to promote the sport and promote the NPF in the state of Texas. Scott Smith, with the Charge, contacted us six or eight months ago and asked then if we’d be interested.”
It wasn’t just the community who got a glimpse of professional softball. So did around 300 campers Baylor softball has this week.
“Let the campers see this,” Moore said. “It’s a great way of promoting it. These kids watch these girls play on TV at various colleges.”
Some of the players were familiar to Baylor softball fans as Oklahoma’s Lauren Chamberlain, Shelby Pendley and Keilani Ricketts suited up for the Pride, and Iowa State’s Brittany Gomez along with Texas’ Nadia Taylor and Brejae Washington took the field for the Charge.
By far, Chamberlain received the most cheers from the Baylor softball campers in attendance.
“All these girls are very impressionable,” Moore said. “To be able to have the opportunity to put their role models in front of them and show them what they can became as far as an athlete. And then to go back to camp and work with our girls which shows them what they can become as a person, too. I think it’s very, very important that we use sports to help mold these young girls into great young women and have self confidence in themselves and grow as people as well as athletes.”
As Moore looked at the crowd from the VIP room at Getterman Stadium, he was impressed with the showing.
The stadium was about 75 percent full and, as Moore put it, they didn’t properly promote it.
That not enough to prove that softball is growing?
The first game of this year’s Women’s College World Series – a 17 inning affair between eventual champion Oklahoma and Florida – was the most-watched finals game one ever with 1,677,000 viewers.
“Being a part of the Power Five here at Baylor, it’s one of the highest rated sports in the country right now,” Moore said. “Year in and year out our ratings are through the roof. … I think people enjoy the action. It seems to be the new America’s pastime, in my opinion. People love what these girls can do.”