Perfect Game, With Addition Of Softball, Aims To Close Opportunity Gap
It is easy to get caught up in the inequalities between professional leagues for men and women, and miss the gaps in opportunity for players of various sports along the pipeline.
Accordingly, while men who play baseball have enjoyed the ability of Perfect Game, a training model for young baseball players that’s produced 1,600 major leaguers over the past 27 years, a similar path was not available to women who play softball. (The limitation on the girls’ baseball side, incidentally, has produced the landmark work of Baseball For All).
To be clear, women’s baseball and softball are different sports. But the announcement Tuesday that Perfect Game Softball, around in initial form since 2019, will be ramping up to a full-service performance support system, on and off the field, will continue the work of narrowing the gap in athletic opportunity between girls and boys, all of which feeds into lesser adult outcomes for women.
“Perfect Game Softball seeks to replicate the baseball model and provide previously unavailable on and off field opportunities for amateur female athletes, including post-playing career positions within the sport,” Perfect Game said in a release Tuesday.
What that means, in practice, is a group of distinguished softball figures atop the pyramid. Destinee Martinez will head up softball operations, while Jessica Shults will be in charge of scouting. Both come with resumes that indicate the seriousness of the Perfect Game approach.
Mike Candrea, longtime University of Arizona softball coach, will advise on-field programming, and Jennie Finch is expanding her role in the sport as educational ambassador, a chance to utilize her deep connections to softball as well.
““I cannot think of a better ambassador of the game than Jennie Finch, someone I have long admired and looked up to as the leader of the women’s softball movement,” Martinez said. “Having Jennie and Coach Candrea on the Perfect Game Softball management and operations team will allow us to have a greater impact on the women’s fastpitch movement in a short period of time.”
The sport is at a crossroads at the moment professional. The primary pro league, National Pro Fastpitch, suspended operations in August 2021, even as the sport continues to soar in popularity at the youth and collegiate levels. And Athletes Unlimited, meanwhile, offers a different league structure, and has completed two seasons.