Next Saturday, softball is back as the Athletes Unlimited Softball League debuts! Although there will be no fans or press in attendance, it will be great to see all of the great players doing what they love.
AU will feature 56 players comprising four teams (yellow, orange, blue and purple). All teams will play 30 games at the Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont, IL concluding September 29.
There will be some new twists on the game, without affecting the beauty of the sport. A scoring system similar to fantasy sports is the main unique feature. Individual players earn points based on both team wins and individual performance, with the top four players named as captains and drafting the next week's teams. The leader board will constantly change and the teams will change weekly. The player with the most points in the end will be crowned the individual champion.
I admit I am a bit concerned this could be gimmicky, but the players are excited about it and I'm curious to see how it plays out. It could be quite interesting. I applaud AU for thinking outside the box and trying something innovative.
The 56 players include 20 Olympians and other world class softball players. Players include two NCAA Players of The Year, two Rawlings Gold Glove winners, nine NCAA National Champions, one Women’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player and players from six National teams. Several former and current Chicago Bandits will be among the players, including Danielle O'Toole, who will play for Team Mexico in the 2021 Olympics.
AU is all about the players. There are no coaches nor managers. The players essentially run the league. Players are excited about the long term ownership possibilities and benefits. These first year AU players will not be forgotten as league grows.
Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, no fans will be in attendance this season, but AU is bringing the games to fans via ESPN and the CBS Sports Network. Additionally, WAVE.tv will air game highlights, behind-the-scenes videos and other content.
Fan interaction will include the opportunity to predict every play for the chance to win prizes. There will also be virtual autograph sessions. More fan interactive experiences can be had through a paid membership in the Unlimited Club, offering exclusive content, limited edition merchandise and other special offers.
AU will be involved in many social initiatives. These include a partnership with Girl Scouts of the USA, a "Rally the Vote" voter engagement program and an Athletes Causes program that will benefit charities of the players’ choosing equal to 50% of their season bonus.
Growing the game and interacting with the community is big part of the plan. As role models and leaders, players will engage the next generation of athletes and fans
As with any event these days, the health of all involved is a concern. Every precaution is being taken to keep the players and personnel healthy and safe.
Of course, I would rather be at the ballpark watching the action, but for now, I am just grateful for any softball. While I won't be at the ballpark next Saturday, I will be watching comfortably from my couch, enjoying Coke, pizza and softball!
I will be covering AU all season. Look for coverage here. GlobalTravelerUSA.com, GlobalWomensSportsRadio.com and Patch.com. Also, go to AUProSports.com for more info including schedules and the leader boards. Also follow Athletes Unlimited on twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Danielle O'Toole and me in Rosemont, IL-July 2019