Jocelyn Alo is the greatest player in the history of softball. Full point. No question marks.
She is the Most Outstanding World Series Player at the 2022 Women’s University, a two-time national champion, a two-time U.S. Softball Collegiate Player, No. 1. in career home runes (122), no. (323) and has the highest career slugging percentage (.990!).
Much has been said about his debut and everything he has done to promote softball. The game has seen an increase in the brightness of its stars, even though national interest has been steadily increasing for a long time.
“I think I’ve definitely left my mark,” Alok said Thursday after Oklahoma won its sixth national championship. “I’ve definitely enjoyed my five years, and I’m excited to see what the Sooners softball team is doing. And I’m really excited to see how the girls are going to work hard to break my record. “
Every year, more than 1.3 million players participate in the USA Softball Youth Program. According to the NCAA, there were 2,532 athletes in the first season of Division I softball (1982) compared to 6,892 in 2021. ESPN airs the first game of its first game in Oklahoma and Texas (which fought the 3rd game of the NBA Finals on ABC) It had an average audience of 1.4 million. Title game on ESPN2 With an average audience of 1.7 million, it reached 2.1 million.
However, professional softball in America has not yet taken off. What can Alok and his tournament pedigrees do to change that?
Answer: It’s complicated.
Here’s the next one for Jocelyn Alo
Yes, Alo’s profile can only improve professional softball. But her main problem is as old as women’s sport: Lack of investment and visibility.
Alok will play Women’s Pro Fastpitch on Smash It Sports Vipers, Instagram Live announced on Monday. He allowed the momentum to escalate over the weekend after he told media outlets he would continue to play softball on Thursday night, but did not specify which league. About 2,100 viewers tuned in at the time of the announcement.
“He’s making decisions, and people are waiting to see where he’s going,” said Lauren Chamberlain, a former Sooner and former NCAA home record holder. “That’s what we want for the sport. That’s what former players want. We want that focus on an athlete and the decision that he or she will make, as it would be for men in the professional field, who are choosing to go somewhere else. ”
Chamberlain played professional softball for four years at National Pro Fastpitch. She now serves as curator of the Women’s Professional Fastpitch (WPF), which will kick off the start-up league and play games online on Tuesday, kicking off the exhibition season of her two starting teams (USSSA Pride and Smash It Sports Vipers) on Tuesday.
“Jocelyn is a representation of the modern female athlete,” Chamberlain said after Alo’s announcement. “She deserves all the attention she has received, and it should be normalized to see the world responding madly to a woman who dominates her sport. It’s another big step for our sport and for the whole woman.”
Savanna Collins is a digital reporter and producer for Athletes Unlimited, a fantasy-style women’s sports professional league. He sees Alo as a kind of talent that surpasses softball. Tom Brady, a seven-time Super Bowl quarterback, sent a direct message to Alor on Instagram to congratulate him for a career so dominant. Hau’ula (Hawaii) and Norman (Oklahoma) his story is in the major sports media. They feel like they know the fans and they want to be rooted.
“It’s really a state of the blue moon where all the marks that drive sports fans crazy are getting,” Collins said. “So I think he’s going to be great in any league he chooses for pro-softball. I know that league will have a lot of fans. … I think he’s famous and a wonderful athlete as we rarely see him.”
Despite his generational talent, he would not be the first collegiate softball player to fall in love with ESPN and then drop out of the WCWS. Take Florida softball student Amanda Lorenz or Sierra Romero, Michigan, for example.
Social media and the NIL era are helpful, relatively new developments that keep fans engaged. And AU’s deal with ESPN is huge. Kayla Lombardo, editor-in-chief of Softball America, said Alo and other elite softball players are reaping the benefits of living and playing at a historic time for women athletes.
“He’s really the first superstar in our game, who will be able to play at the highest level from playing on ESPN in college, and then playing on the ESPN networking family, on a professional level,” Lombardo said. “This is significant because it means that the eye will continue to be on him and that he has the opportunity to continue to grow his brand and support softball in general.”
Pro softball’s overall challenge reflects women’s sporting barriers
As a society, we have been deceived into thinking that women’s sports are worth less, without actually testing this hypothesis. “Which came first: chicken or egg?” you heard the question. When it comes to the women’s sports business, it’s like, “Which should be first, interest or investment?”.
Lombardo says the investment.
“A lot of men’s sports leagues haven’t been profitable in decades, so you need time to get the return on your investment,” Lombardo said. “But you have to be long-term, see the potential for long-term gambling and dividend-paying investments.”
The NBA had a net loss of $ 15 million and $ 20 million in 1982, about 35 years in league history. The NWSL is in its 10th season, but has appeared in closed league leagues such as the Women’s United Soccer Association and the Women’s Professional Soccer League, lasting three and four years, respectively. The WNBA is 26 years old and, even with the support of the NBA, is struggling to broadcast reputable games on national television. The National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league folded last August after 17 years.
“Give it to us [women’s sports leagues] time, “said Collins.” Give us the same grace that men’s pro leagues have given and are constantly giving. “
Athletes Unlimited was launched in 2020 with a five-week, 30-game softball season. The lists change every week as the top players become captains and gather new teams to compete in a tournament.
Since 2020, AU has added volleyball, lacrosse and basketball to its repertoire. An abbreviated version of the softball season of his tournament (three sets of 12 games in two weeks) called AUX premiers Monday. In April, ESPN announced a multi-year agreement with AU to launch softball and lacrosse games on online platforms via streaming on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN +.
“There aren’t a lot of 3rd year leagues with that access that are on linear TV,” Collins said of the deal. “And a big part of growing the investment of the fans in that regard, I think, is having access and ease of watching the game. For Athletes Unlimited, being on ESPN was a big part of that.”
Chamberlain said the reason for the popularity of college softball was NCAA investment and ESPN visibility. He called them “negotiable for success.”
NCAA softball games are available on ESPN or streaming throughout the season, and the tournament after the sports season receives Sunday morning or prime-time treatment. In one of the biggest sports media platforms, with constant exposure on social media and their new ability to take advantage of name, image and appearance, college softball players have plenty of tools available to create a brand that resonates with fans. (On Alo’s Instagram, he has promoted a local car dealership and a law firm, McDonald’s, Outback, Fabletics and its line of merchandise.) But once NCAA eligibility is over, viewers who have followed the trip have little way to go. do so.
Chamberlain said softball league professionals and superstar players should work together to raise each other’s marks. They kind of helped me — help — me, rather than leagues that only drafted the reputation of their players. Rather than relying on the ability of dedicated university fans to pursue athletes, leagues should fight to ensure the exposure of athletes in a way that exacerbates the plight of both parties.
“I’ve been in the same seat, and a lot of women who are into professional softball have still made the choice to be professionals and I don’t think the league protects us equally,” Chamberlain said. “It simply came to our notice then [at WPF] We are trying to provide a platform to continue, not so much professional softball to ride on them, but to help our two brands to help and benefit each other equally. “