The Women’s Pro Softball League was active from 1997-2001. After a few years of inactivity, it was revived and rebranded in 2004 as National Pro Fastpitch. The league has six teams: the New England Riptide, the Philadelphia Force, USSSA Pride, Akron Racers, Chicago Bandits and the Rockford Thunder.
In the process of rebranding and reforming in 2002, NPF teamed up with Major League Baseball as part of their ongoing efforts to connect with women. The MLB signed on as an Official Development Partner, and with their help NPF put on an all-star softball tour in 2003.
2004 was the first full season for National Pro Fastpitch. The six teams played 178 games. The 2005 season had less games, 144, but grew to include international teams from Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, China, Russia and Australia.
As with all growing leagues, teams changed cities many times from inception to today. Though the New England Riptide has not outright folded as some teams have, they did sit out the 2009 season due to economic reasons.
One interesting game the NPF plays is the “Battle of the Bats.” Every Saturday night home game, four players from each team represent a different bat manufacturer for a home run hitting contest between bat companies and players. The conclusion of the series takes place at the NPF championship weekend in Kimberly, Wisconsin.
The Women’s Pro Softball League was not the first attempt at a women’s league; there was one other movement in the 1970s. The International Women’s Professional Softball Association was founded in 1976 and stayed active until the 80s. There was a lull in the sport until the 1990’s when the Cowles family founded the Women’s Pro Softball League.