The National Pro Fastpitch regular season ended last Sunday. The Chicago Bandits finished in first place with a record of 38-7. The USSSA Pride took second place with a record of 32-13. Most people predicted a 1-2 finish for these teams, but probably in reverse order. Either way, the championship series is set, with the Bandits will face the Pride in Rosemont in a best of 5 series starting tonight.
Today, I want to give kudos to NPF commissioner Cheri Kempf. The NPF has struggled at times, like most women's sports. Being commissioner is a tough and often thankless job. Some of Kempf's decisions have come under criticism, but you can't please everyone. No matter what, you cannot deny her passion for the sport.
Kempf has been a big part of the softball scene for most of her life. A four-time National Champion, a three-time Hall of Famer, a National Team member for Team USA and 1992 World Cup Champion, Kempf has also been an instructor, an author, an analyst and more. She has served as NPF commish since 2007.
During Kempf's tenure, the NPF has seen positive changes such as adding a few Olympic training teams and instituting on-uniform ads. She is very hands-on and visible, never running from any criticisms. She has always been great to me in any of my interactions with her.
Keeping the NPF surviving and even growing is a big challenge, but Kempf has succeeded. Yes, more teams, higher pay, bigger attendance etc would be great, but change and growth takes a long time, especially for women's sports. It's unfortunate, but it is reality.
As we head into the NPF championship series, I am grateful for the job Kempf has done. In a few days, she will hand the championship trophy to one of the teams (hopefully the Bandits), who will be cheered as winners. I will also cheer for Kempf and thank her for one more exciting season.
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Cheri Kempf and me in Rosemont, IL-August 2018.