DENVER, Colo. - National Pro Fastpitch All-Stars Venus Taylor and Danielle Cox participated in the final game of the White House Tee Ball Initiative 2003 season yesterday. The players traveled to Washington, D.C., to represent the nation's only professional women's fastpitch league at the event, which celebrated the participation of women and girls in sports.
President George W. Bush, the first Little Leaguer elected the nation's highest office, launched the Tee Ball Initiative in 2001 to promote children's interest in diamond sports, and foster a spirit of teamwork and service for America's youth.
The White House event marked the next to the last stop of the 2003 National Pro Fastpitch Summer All-Star Tour. The tour featured an All-Star lineup that traveled to 17 cities and partnered with a dozen Major League Baseball Clubs to present tens of thousands of fans with fastpitch games, clinics and promotions. Major League Baseball is the Official Development Partner of National Professional Fastpitch in the category of women's professional fastpitch softball. Several players will wrap up the tour by hosting a youth skills clinic in the New York/New Jersey area on Saturday, September 13.
Taylor and Cox joined an impressive list of athletes at the White House, including: former Major Leaguer and Honorary Commissioner of White House Tee Ball Cal Ripken, Jr.; two-time Olympic Gold medallist Dot Richardson; fitness expert Denise Austin; ESPN SportsCenter anchor Linda Cohn; USA softball member Jennie Finch; Olympic Gold medallist Kerri Strug; and members of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL).
The game featured co-ed teams from Milwood Little League (Kalamazoo, Mich.)and Trenton, N.J, and was the ninth held at the White House since the initiative began. In keeping with the tradition of Tee Ball on the South Lawn games, no score was kept and every player on both teams played defense and got up to bat once in the one-inning game. It was followed by a picnic on the South Lawn for players, families, and guests.
Taylor, a native of Quad Cities, Ill. recently began her head coaching duties at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. On the summer she played in 22 games for the NPF All-Stars collecting 14 hits and nine runs batted in. Cox, a two-time WPSL All-Star and graduate of Florida State University led NPF in several offensive categories this summer. She led the team in at-bats (71), sacrifice bunts (5) and stolen bases with nine, and she was second on the team in hits with 26.
Softball is enjoying an unparalleled period of growth. The sport experienced a 67.3 percent increase in the number of female softball players at the high school level from 1980-81 to 2000-01, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations, and today millions of girls at the youth and high school level play slowpitch or fastpitch softball. Currently there are more than 1700 fastpitch programs at the collegiate level.
National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) is headquartered in Denver, Colo. The league, created to give elite women fastpitch players the opportunity to pursue a professional career in their chosen sport, has operated since 1997 under the names Women's Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Women's Pro Softball League (WPSL).
It will begin official league play in the summer of 2004 with teams located in six to eight markets across the country.