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A Unique League of Their Own: Athletes Unlimited Professional Softball League

A Unique League of Their Own: Athletes Unlimited Professional Softball League

Unlike baseball, where ball players aspire toward the Major Leagues, the Athletes Unlimited (AU) Pro Softball League is practically the only way for a softball player to continue playing past college. Athletes Unlimited currently has four professional women’s sports leagues: volleyball, basketball, lacrosse, and softball. The softball program is comprised of the top 60 players from around the United States. 

According to the Sports Business Journal, Athletes Unlimited (AU) wants to “reimagine how team sports are played.” Based on their research, AU found that modern day fans are more invested in specific players than they are attached to teams. Accordingly, AU sought to attract a fanbase that was loyal to individual players but also enjoyed watching the sport and rooting for a particular team. This is the main reason why new teams are created each week, using the top four players as team captains. According to the AU website, these four players are chosen through a system of voting that allows all players and members of AU to cast votes. This alone is already unlike professional baseball. 

What’s more, the scoring is different and quite unconventional. Instead of winning by overall number of runs, the winning team after the first inning gets ten points, and the total points per game tops out at 50. The top three players overall are voted MVPs (Most Valuable Players), which then permits them to gain individual points. These individual points are a large part of the game and encourage each player to strive for excellence, which is similar to PRs, or “personal achievements.” Players can earn points for hitting or lose points for getting caught stealing. A player’s points help to determine the ranking used for selecting new  teams. Although unconventional, this scoring system makes the game more equitable and exciting to watch, especially since softball is ordinarily a pitcher-dominated game. After the final game each week, team captains are chosen and they draft their lineups and their team color based on their standing. 

The teams are ranked based on the team captains and overall rankings–the best team is Gold, followed by Orange, then Blue, and finally Purple.

According to a Sports Media article, this unique game play is called “mission equity,” which  allows players “to have a say in the way the competition is governed.” Each AU sport is led by a committee of players which determines uniform design, rules, scoring systems, and athlete recruitment. 

Scoring system and game play ideology aside, this league provides role models for young softball players. Before the formation of this league, there was little to no professional softball aside from the Olympics. In this way, the AU Pro Softball League empowers girls playing ball anywhere. Watching professional players can serve as inspiration for young girls to pursue softball through witnessing the success of professional softball players. As Wichita State player Sydney McKinney says, “it just gives so much hope and excitement to the sport and for little girls looking up to us.” Representation matters, and now, girls in Little League have another option to watch women play the sport that they love.

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Siri Rosenberg, Managing Editor

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