Women's Watch: NPF's OPAL program aims to boost players' salaries

Opals can be rare gems worth a lot of money.

For the players of National Pro Fastpitch, the professional softball league in the United States, an OPAL can also be quite lucrative, too.

Debuting this season, an OPAL, or On Player Ad Location, has the potential to add more to each and every players' bottom lines in the NPF.

"We exist in the space of women's professional sports, which in this day and time translates always to players being underpaid," NPF Commissioner Cheri Kempf said. "This program allows sponsors to engage with players directly, and players to tap into their personal network resources, to add financial support to their endeavor of playing professional softball."

Hmmm. Sounds like an idea that the women from the WNBA and the U.S. women's national soccer team, who say they are underpaid, might want to explore as well.

Each player in the NPF has the power to supplement league and team advertising that may already have a home on their gear with their own individualized advertising that they solicit and negotiate themselves.

Hats, visors and arm sleeves are all fair game for logos and company messaging in the OPAL program.

Partnerships begin at $2,500 for the season and can vary from player to player, with each athlete having the ability to set pricing and exposure quantity.

In Chicago, several players for the Bandits have already benefited from the NPF's new OPAL program.

Second-year outfielder Jessie Scroggins, a star at Baylor who took the NPF by storm last season by earning the league's Rookie of the Year award, created an OPAL last month with Rapsodo, a company that implements technology to help athletes better understand true performance metrics.

"I'm thrilled to have an OPAL Partnership with Rapsodo and thankful for the opportunity," Scroggins said. "The data that Rapsodo provides is essential for athletes who want to get better. It's awesome to work with a company helping to grow the game of softball."

Earlier this month, teammate Abbey Cheek, a rookie infielder for the Bandits, partnered with Jolley Electric for an OPAL. Cheek, a star at Kentucky, was the 14th overall selection in the 2019 NPF College Draft and shot out of the gates with a .382 batting average in her first month as a pro.

Jolley Electric has been in business for 20 years in North Carolina and the owner is the father of one of Cheek's good friends.

Meanwhile, veteran Bandits outfielder Brenna Moss, the reigning NPF Player of the Year, announced last month an OPAL partnership with Big League Chew.

"I am very excited about this partnership with Big League Chew, especially since they just released their softball pouch," Moss said. "It means the world that they are showing their support for women in sports and I'm honored to wear their logo this summer.

"The OPAL program has already helped so many athletes in the NPF advance their careers by allowing companies to sponsor a specific individual. I think this is exactly what we need to continue growing. We are not only helping grow the athletes themselves but also involving as many people as we can in our league, to raise awareness and continue pushing in a positive direction."

Hot streak:

Speaking of the Bandits, who are 21-5 and the only team in the league as of Thursday with more than 20 wins, they recently won 14 games in a row.

The NPF championship is again on their minds.

Winners of four league championships since 2008, the Bandits are extra hungry after falling just short last season, losing to the USSSA Pride in the NPF championship series.

The championship series returns to Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont Aug. 15 to 19.

Tickets can be purchased online through Ticketmaster at:

For now, the Bandits are back in action at Parkway Bank Sports Complex with a July 18-20 homestand against the Aussie Peppers.

No stars in the Sky:

The WNBA announced on Thursday that according to fan voting, the 10 starters in the July 27 WNBA All-Star Game will be: Elena Delle Donne, A'ja Wilson, Liz Cambage, Britteny Griner, Natasha Howard, Jonquel Jones, Chelsea Gray, Jewell Loyd, Kayla McBride and Kia Nurse.

No one from the Sky made the list, which was voted on by fans, current players and media.

Delle Donne, who used to play for the Sky, and Wilson got the most votes respectively so they will each serve as captain of a team and will "draft" the rest of their rosters. A list of 12 all-star reserves, picked by league coaches, will be added to the overall pool of eligible players and announced on Monday.

Twitter: @babcockmcgraw

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