Seven athletes will represent the Florida Gators in a new professional softball league founded by Athletes Unlimited. The league is comprised of only four teams who will share the Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Chicago. The six-week 30 game season will kick-off this Saturday, August 29th at 1 p.m. ET.
Former Gators including Kelly Barnhill, Nicole DeWitt, Michelle Moultrie, Aubree Munro, Aleshia Ocasio, Jordan Roberts, and Kelsey Stewart are set to compete. Gator Nation has an outstanding representation within the 2020 inaugural season; in fact, the most players in the league come from UF.
Athletes Unlimited presents a format never seen before in a professional league. The overall scoring system centers around individual players and aims to name a single player as champion. In addition, there are no coaches and no set rosters each week. Regarding individual performance, statistics will play an even larger role. Earning a base hit or snagging a stolen base not only helps out the team but also gives a player personal points. ESPN reported the point system as follows.
“For offensive players, singles (10 points), doubles (20), triples (30), home runs (40), walks (10) and stolen bases (10) earn points. Getting caught trying to steal a base costs you 10 points. For pitchers, four points are awarded for each out recorded and 10 points deducted for each earned run allowed,” said ESPN’s Graham Hays.
Despite the additions, games will remain at seven innings and the team with most runs takes the win. Overall, the game itself remains unchanged. Former Gator softball pitcher Kelly Barnhill joined Steve Russell on Sportscene to go over the new league. Barnhill emphasized that in order to have individual success you have to play for the team.
“We’ve played a few scrimmage games this week and got a feel for how things work. But its still very much a team game. The team points are still a lot more than anything you can score individually,” Barnhill said.
Furthermore, the reinvented format may be a way to garner more attention to the sport at the professional level. Former Gator Kelsey Stewart is hopeful for what the league can do for the sport.
“The format of pro softball wasn’t working. This new format of having four teams and getting drafted each week and kinda having to adapt sounded fun and way to start loving this game. We finally have got some great investors in this sport who have been able to get other people on board. Now we’re on ESPN and CBS Sports and I don’t think that pro softball has ever been on these platforms. I think you’ll see softball start to bloom,” said Stewart.
Gator Nation you can watch @kkatlyn111, @nicoleddewitt23 , @moultrie16 , @Aubree_Munro1 , @ALESHIAOCASIO , @jordanalyssar14 & @stewartkels7 this Saturday (8/29) on ESPN2‼️ #GoGators https://t.co/lmzYnbEaaS
— Gators Softball (@GatorsSB) August 25, 2020
Within each week, teams will play three games where rosters remain the same. At the conclusion of each week, all 56 players will go back into the draft pool with their new resume of points.
In addition, the four highest scorers in a given week become the captains of the next week. Captains act similarly to general mangers and will draft their new team. The player-oriented format is one of the reasons Kelly Barnhill was attracted to the league.
“The athletes have such ownership in the league and that its really athlete run and driven. I think that’s so cool. The league has girls that have been playing softball for over twenty years of their life. So, a lot of these girls know what to do. To be given the responsibility and that power to make changes is so amazing,” said Barnhill.
Games will air during the season on CBS Sports Network, ESPN2, or ESPN3.