July 30, 2009
Cal State Northridge softball assistant coach Kia Fennell has been spending her summer as a member of the USSSA Pride in the National Pro Fastpitch League. GoMatadors caught up with Coach Fennell while on the road with the team in Akron, Ohio, for a series against the Akron Racers.
How has it been so far playing in the NPF?
"It's been a great experience. We have been traveling and doing a lot of promotions. I see good things coming for the league. People are excited and interested to learn about the NPF and want to get teams in their towns. We have also had some good interactions with lots of companies, including Major League Baseball, about expanding the league. It's exciting."
What have the crowds been like for you games?
"On the weekends, we tend to draw bigger crowds. Recently, we played a game at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex and that drew around 4,000 people. It was even better to win that game, 4-1, with three home runs."
What differences have you seen between professional softball and NCAA softball?
"I don't think there are that many differences, though players don't have to be coached as much because the league features so much talent. One thing I have noticed is that you have to be on top of your game at all times. As a pitcher, I really have to hit my spots at all times because a lot of players are capable of getting big hits."
What did the NPF do at the MLB All-Star Game in St. Louis?
"We had an information booth entitled: Women in Baseball. It was an opportunity for people to learn about the league and get the word out. We had a great turnout and people are getting very excited about the league. Some of the girls also participated in a celebrity game, so I think that helped drive some interest for the league."
Did you find it hard to get back into a competitive mode?
"Well, because I had been playing in a men's league and had just finished my second season of coaching, it wasn't too hard. It was somewhat of a transition to go back to playing against women, but it has been very competitive and everyone is very focused and ready to play every day."
What does the future hold for the Pride this season and in the future?
"Right now, we're looking good to get into the playoffs. We just need to keep winning. I see really good things developing for the league. USSSA is a huge part of the slow pitch softball scene, and now they are interested in getting into fastpitch. I think they can help the NPF expand its reach and help make more people aware of all the great talent we have."
How has it been playing with the Pride and your teammates, which include former US Olympians Kelly Kretschman, Monica Abbott and Caitlin Lowe?
"It has been pretty cool to play with all the girls on our team. We are all very close and I am able to learn a lot about being a player and a coach by just watching the different women in their routines and how they handle different situations."
What advice would you give young girls with aspirations of playing NCAA Softball and in the NPF?
"I would just tell them to keep working hard. There is always someone else who is working just as hard as you and you sometimes have to go above and beyond what you think you are capable of accomplishing. I also think its important for young players to be coachable. No matter how much I may think I know about softball, there is always something new to learn."