Bandits swept in title bid
Despite success, pro softball ignored in Chicago
By Steve Metsch
Sitting in the stands at the Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont on Saturday evening, I caught myself wondering a few things as I watched the Chicago Bandits play the USSSA Pride in a do-or-die game.
One, why wasn’t it standing room only? Attendance was reported 1,500, small for a title series in this softball crazy town. And it was the league’s two juggernauts. This was the Bandits’ eighth appearance in the finals. The Bandits have won four titles, and – heading into Saturday – the Pride had won three.
Two, with all the softball players out there, why are there only five teams in the National Pro Fastpitch league?
The first question, I guess, we can chalk up to the fact that girls’ and women’s sports do not get the attention deserved, for whatever the reason.
I’m biased. My daughter, now 18, just completed another season of travel softball. She started in Little League, playing baseball until she grew tired of the blatant sexism, and then switched to softball. Two years of high school softball were included, and she hopes to play club softball in college.
So we are, naturally, big fans of the sport. Much of the crowd appeared to be composed of either former players or current, with their families. And that was nice to see. I liked it when a former Bandits player received a big hug from a young fan when he saw her in the stands.
But the league question baffles me. I ran into a friend of mine from school. His daughter played college softball. When I asked him about the NPF, that’s when I learned it had five teams. How is that possible? With all the great college players out there, the league should have eight or even 12 teams.
The finals, he told me, had been planned before the season to be played in Rosemont. It’s kind of like the Super Bowl in that regard. Fortunately for the Bandits, who completed their 15th season, they were playing in their home ballpark. Not that it helped much. The Prid – which hails from Viera, a town on Florida’s east coast about an hour from Orlando – simply had better hitting, fielding and pitching en route to a 4-0 win and their fourth title. They shut out the Bandits in two of the three games in their best-of-five series.
One thing that irked me was the series pretty much got no attention from Chicago media. Was there a clip on the 10 p.m. news? Rosemont’s pro hockey team, the minor league Chicago Wolves, routinely is covered. The new Chicago Dogs minor league baseball team plays a block away from the Bandits.I read about their opener in the papers. Nary a word this summer did I read on the Bandits.
The game itself was a doozy, filled with all the thing I love about fast-pitch softball. There were snazzy fielding plays, great pitching, clutch hits and even a bit of drama tossed in for good measure.
The Bandits, we thought, had scored in the first inning, but the ump ruled that NPF Player of the Year Brenna Moss had left third base early on a sacrifice fly and ruled her out. Later, two Pride outfielders collided trying to catch a deep fly ball and somehow avoided injury.
The Pride was held hitless until the fourth inning, when a flare just over the third baseman’s head ignited what became a three-run rally. They added another run in the fifth, and survived a few late scares by the Bandits.
If you’ve never attended a Bandits game, I highly recommend it. The box office guy told me I was buying “the last box seat available behind home plate,” so I was happy at ante up the $16.25. It’s best to sit behind home, just like in baseball, to appreciate the skills, especially those of the pitchers.
Rosemont is a fun town. Lots to do. You can see concerts, go to a casino, attend conventions, and enjoy fine dining. You can watch baseball played by the Dogs, or see the ice hockey skills of the Wolves. It’s a shame the Bandits – again, eight finals in 15 seasons – don’t get the attention they deserve. Here’s hoping things change for the better.