Jocelyn Alo is the greatest striker in the history of softball. Point. No question mark.
She is the world’s most notable toy from 2022, a two-time national champion, a two-time college softball player of the year in the United States, the No. 1 all-time career home runner (122), the No. 2 all-time career RBI 323) and has the highest career breakthrough rate of all time (0.990!).
Much has been said about its premiere and everything has been done to promote softball. The game has grown exponentially in the glory of its star, although national interest has been growing steadily for some time.
“I think it definitely left a mark,” Hello said after Oklahoma won its sixth national championship on Thursday. “I definitely enjoyed my five years and I’m excited to see what the Sooners softball team is doing. And I’m just excited to see what kind of little girl will work hard there to come and break my record. “
More than 1.3 million players participate in the U.S. youth softball program each year. The first season of Division I softball (1982) included 2,532 athletes, compared with 6,892 in 2021, according to the NCAA. ESPN’s prime-time broadcast of the first Oklahoma-Texas game in the championship series (which is battling match 3 of the ABC Eye NBA Finals) an average of 1.4 million viewers. The title game of ESPN2 an average of 1.7 million viewers, reaching a peak of 2.1 million.
However, professional softball in America has not yet begun. What could Alo and her champion pedigree do to change that?
The answer: It’s complicated.
Here’s what’s next for Jocelyn Hello
Yes, Alo’s profile can only improve professional softball. But his main problem is a tale as old as women’s sports: lack of investment and visibility.
Hello will play in the Women’s Pro Fastpitch of Smash It Sports Vipers, she announced on Instagram Live on Monday. She allowed momentum to rise over the weekend after telling the media on Thursday night that she would continue to play softball, but did not specify which league (s). At the time of its announcement, about 2,100 spectators had joined.
“She’s making decisions and people are waiting to see where she’s going,” said Lauren Chamberlain, a former Sooner and former NCAA home runner-up. “This is what we want for sports. That’s what former players want. We want that attention around the athlete and the decision she makes just as it would be for men in the professional space who choose to go somewhere else. “
Chamberlain played professional softball for four years at National Pro Fastpitch. She now serves as commissioner of the Women’s Professional Fastpitch (WPF), a new league that kicks off its first show season with two teams (USSSA Pride and Smash It Sports Vipers) on Tuesday and will broadcast games online.
“Jocelyn is the personification of the modern athlete,” Chamberlain said after the announcement by Alo. “The attention she has attracted is well deserved, and to see how the world reacts in madness to a woman who dominates her sport needs to be normalized. This is another big step for our sport and for women in general. “
Savannah Collins is a digital reporter and producer of Athletes Unlimited, a professional sports league for women in fantasy style. She sees Alo as a kind of talent that goes beyond softball. Tom Brady, the seven-time Super Bowl quarterback champion, send Alo a direct message via Instagram to congratulate her on such a dominant career. Her story from Howell, Hawaii, to Norman, Oklahoma, is spread in the major media. Fans feel as if they know her and want to support her.
“It’s really like a blue moon situation where they hit all the points that drive sports fans crazy,” Collins said. “So I think it will be huge for the professional softball that league chooses. I know that this league will have a huge influx of fans. “I think she’s a famous and fantastic athlete in a way we rarely see.”
Although she is a talent of a generation, she will not be the first collegiate softball player to fall in love with ESPN during the WCWS and then be abandoned. Take, for example, Florida softball graduate Amanda Lorenz or Sierra Romero of Michigan.
Social media and the NIL era are useful, relatively new developments that keep fans engaged. And AU’s deal with ESPN is huge. Kayla Lombardo, editor-in-chief of Softball America, said Hello and other elite softball players are reaping the benefits of life and play at a historically great time for women athletes.
“She really is the first superstar in our game to have the opportunity to go from playing ESPN to college at the highest level until then going and playing in the family of ESPN networks at a professional level,” Lombardo said. “This is important because it means that the eyeballs will continue to be on her and that she has the opportunity to continue to develop her brand and help softball in general.”
The challenges of professional softball reflect sporting obstacles for women in general
As a society, we are deluded into thinking that women’s sports cost less without really testing this hypothesis. You’ve heard the question, “Which comes first: the chicken or the egg?” When it comes to the women’s sports business, it’s more like, “Which comes first, interest or investment?”
Lombardo says investment.
“Many men’s sports leagues have not been profitable for decades, so it takes time to get a return on your investment,” Lombardo said. “But you have to be in it in the long run, for the long game, and see the potential for the investment to pay dividends.”
The NBA recorded a net loss of $ 15 million to $ 20 million in 1982, approximately 35 years in the league’s history. NWSL is in its 10th season, but has appeared on the graves of closed leagues such as the Women’s United Football Association and the Women’s Professional Football League, which lasted three and four years, respectively. The WNBA is 26 years old and, even with the support of the NBA, is fighting to broadcast high-profile matches on national television. The National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) League resigned last August after 17 years.
“Give it to us [women’s sports leagues] time, “Collins said.” Give us the same grace that has been given and is continually given to men’s professional leagues. “
Athletes Unlimited kicks off in 2020 with a five-week softball season of 30 games. Every week the lists change as top players become captains and design new teams to compete for the championship.
Since 2020, AU has added volleyball, lacrosse and basketball to its repertoire. An abridged version of the softball championship season (three series of 12 games in two weeks) is called the AUX premieres on Monday. In April, ESPN announced a multi-year deal with AU to broadcast professional softball and lacrosse games on the network’s platforms, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN + streaming.
“There aren’t many leagues in Year 3 alone that are already on line TV with that amount of access,” Collins said of the deal. “And a lot of the increase in investment from fans in this country, I think there is access and ease so you can watch the game. For Athletes Unlimited, being on ESPN was a big part of it. ”
The reason for the popularity of softball in college, Chamberlain said, is investment from the NCAA and visibility from ESPN. She called it a “failure to negotiate success.”
NCAA softball games are available on ESPN or streaming throughout the season, and the post-season sports tournament receives a Sunday matinee or prime-time treatment. Between the constant presentation of one of the biggest platforms of sports media, social media and their newly discovered ability to earn by name, image and likeness, softball players in college have many tools to create a brand that resonates with fans. (On Alo’s Instagram, she promoted a local car dealership and law firm, McDonald’s, Outback, Fabletics, and her own line of merchandise.) Do it.
Chamberlain said professional softball leagues and superstars need to work together to raise each other’s marks. A kind of “help me-help-you” relationship, instead of the leagues gaining only the popularity of their players. Instead of relying on the ability of dedicated college fans to track athletes, leagues must fight to ensure that athletes are exposed in a way that enhances the status of both parties.
“I was in the same place and many of the women who play professional softball have still made that choice to become professionals and I don’t think we are equally supported by the league,” Chamberlain said. “And that’s something we do [at WPF] what they are striving to do is to provide them with a platform to continue so that they are not so much driven by professional softball, but that we can equally support and benefit each other to continue both brands. ”