May 16, 2001
Denver, Colo. - Nine members of the gold-medal winning 2000 Sydney Olympic softball team will be featured in a pair of games at UCLA's Easton Stadium on June 17 at 12 p.m & 2 p.m. The "Tour of Fastpitch Champions" will feature the WPSL Gold Team, comprised of former USA National Team members and international stars from Canada and China, teamed with the WPSL All-Stars, the best players of the Women's Pro Softball League. The tour will stop in 11 cities across the country, many of which are being considered for future league expansion.
Tickets for the two games go on sale May 31. For more information call the UCLA Central Ticket Office at 310-825-2101. The first game of the double header will pit the WPSL Gold Team against USA Red, followed by the WPSL All-Stars versus USA Blue. The WPSL rosters are comprised of five UCLA players, while eight current Bruins have been selected to attend the USA Softball Women's National Team Camp, May 30-June 3 in Chula Vista, Calif. The camp will deterrmine the two 16-player teams that will represent the U.S. in international competitions and on the "Tour of Fastpitch Champions".
Among those featured on the WPSL Gold Team will be two-time Olympic gold medallists Lisa Fernandez (UCLA/Long Beach, Calif.), Michele Smith (Oklahoma State/Califon, N.J.), Laura Berg (Fresno State/Santa Fe Springs, Calif.) and Sheila Douty (UCLA/Diamond Bar, Calif.). Fernandez is widely considered one of the greatest all-around softball players of all time after leading the Americans to their second consecutive gold medal in Sydney, Australia. Smith posted a 0.00 ERA in the 2000 Olympics and was second on the squad with 37 strikeouts. Berg hit the ball that resulted in the game-winning run during the gold medal game against Japan. Douty is an 18-year veteran of the USA National Team and has won two Olympic gold medals and three World Championship titles.
Other 2000 Sydney Olympians on the roster are Jennifer Brundage (UCLA/Ann Arbor, Mich.), Crystl Bustos (Palm Beach CC/Canyon Country, Calif.), Danielle Henderson (Massachusetts/Commack, N.Y.), Jennifer McFalls (Texas A&M/Grand Prairie, Texas) and Michelle Venturella (Indiana/Indianapolis, Ind.). Brundage and Bustos were the Americans top two hitters in Sydney, with Bustos leading the squad in hits (10), runs scored (5), home runs (3), slugging percentage (.541) and RBI (4), while Brundage paced the squad in batting average (.281) and on-base percentage (.361). Olympic alternate selection Teri Klement-Goldberg (Colorado State/Ft. Collins, Colo.), who rounds out the American contingent is a five-year veteran of the USA National Team and helped the American team claim the gold medal at the 1999 U.S. Olympic Cup.
Joining the WPSL Gold Team are Olympians from China and Canada. Cindy Yan Fang (Beijing, China) led the entire Olympic tournament with a .391 batting average. She is a 14-year veteran of the Chinese National Team, claiming silver medals (behind the USA) at the 1994 World Championships and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Erin (Woods) White (Iowa State/Richmond, BC) and Jackie Lance (New Mexico/North Delta, BC) will represent Canada on the WPSL Gold Team. White hit the Canadians only home run at the Olympic Games and led the team with three RBI. Lance posted three hits, one run and one RBI.
Among those selected for the WPSL All-Star Team are 2000 WPSL MVP Patti Benedict (Michigan/Lamont, Fla.) and 2000 WPSL Championship Series MVP Steph Klaviter (Minnesota/New Ulm, Minn.). Benedict led the league in batting average (.330), hits (35) and doubles (6) in helping the Florida Wahoos claim the WPSL title. Klaviter finished the season ranked first in wins (10), ERA (0.25) and shutouts (7).
The All-Star Team will not be without its own Olympians with the selection of 1996 gold medallists Julie Smith (Fresno State/Glendora, Calif.) and Kim Maher (Fresno State/Oakland, Calif.). The two former Bulldogs joined the WPSL last season and made an immediate impact. Smith earned WPSL Defensive Player of the Year honors and ranked second in the league in steals (7) and hits (28), third in batting average (.289) and fifth in on-base percentage (.330) and runs scored (10). Maher collected 20 hits, seven runs scored and 10 RBI in 30 games as a rookie.
The Tour of Fastpitch Champions will travel to 14 cities, many of which have been targeted as WPSL expansion candidates. Competition will feature games between the WPSL Gold and All-Star teams as well as Canada, the yet-to-be-named USA National Teams and local teams. Ten of these games will be televised, eight on ESPN2 and two "live" on ESPN, a first for the WPSL.
"The tour will allow us to focus our resources on expansion in 2002," WPSL CEO/Commissioner John Carroll said. "It is a great opportunity for the people of the United States to continue to see the best women's fastpitch players in the world as we prepare to relaunch the league in 2002. The new structure will include local ownership of team markets."
The WPSL has adopted an expansion plan to relaunch the league in six to eight markets in 2002, with growth to 12 markets by 2004. Akron, Ohio and Plant City, Fla. are expected to be participants in the new league. The WPSL expansion plan takes into consideration the need to re-shape the current structure of the league to accommodate the addition of important strategic partners vital to future growth and success. Discussions have been underway for several months with key sports entities which will participate in league ownership next season.
The WPSL will launch a major mother/daughter skills program at the grass roots level in conjunction with the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) during the 2001 tour. These events will be held at all tour stops as well as other ASA locations.
Log on to www.prosoftball.com for the latest information about the WPSL.
Tentative Tour Schedule
Date Location May 21-31 Spring Training (Plant City, Fla.) June 1 Plant City, Fla. June 8-9 Allentown, Pa. June 14-15 Oklahoma City, Okla. June 17 Los Angeles, Calif. (UCLA) June 23-24 Akron, Ohio June 28-29 Chattanooga, Tenn. July 1-2 Houston, Texas July 4 Plant City, Fla. July 6-9 Major League Baseball Fan Fest - Seattle, Wash. July 13-14 Rockford, Ill. July 21-22 Madison, Wis. July 31 Plant City, Fla. Aug. 8-9 Salem, Va. Aug. 17-18 Akron, Ohio Aug. 25-26 Stanford, Calif. Aug. 31-Sept. 1 TBD
Tentative Tour Schedule