The National Pro Fastpitch season ended with my Chicago Bandits losing to the USSSA Pride in the championship series. Despite the disappointing end, the season was a lot of fun, with several highlights in the last few weeks.
A few days before the last home series, the Bandits invited me to throw out a first ceremonial pitch. I had no doubt I could throw a decent overhand pitch, but this is softball and Bandit Nation expects a classic underhand toss. Despite being a pitcher in park district softball, I practiced a bit the day of the game.
As game time approached, I felt a little nervous … but more excited. The starting lineups were announced, the teams lined up on the foul lines, and the National Anthem played. All eyes were on the mound as I was announced. The Bandits infielders all wished me luck as I focused on catcher Amanda Chidester.
I’d like to say I threw a perfect strike, but I’ll settle for my throw landing in the catcher’s mitt (after she stood and stretched to nab it). It was a thrill, and I appreciate the Bandits recognizing Global Traveler and me.
Later in the week, the Bandits honored former players Amber Patton and Tammy Williams with the retirement of their jerseys. Many former players and staffers came to share the night with the two softball legends.
The next week, I attended the NPF Awards Banquet at Gene and Georgetti’s. It was a wonderful evening with the players away from the field. As expected, many awards went to players from the Bandits and the Pride. NPF Commissioner Cheri Kempf presided over a fun evening. Longtime star Kelly Kretschman won the first-ever Legacy award and surprised everyone with her retirement announcement.
The Bandits made the championship series in seven of the last nine seasons, winning the title three times. Unfortunately this season, the Pride swept the Bandits in three games. Coach Lauren Lappin and the Bandits kept it close but fell just short in every game.
The Bandits and their fans stayed long after the final out was made. It seemed nobody wanted the season to end and everyone wanted to congratulate and thank pitcher Rachele Fico, who was retiring. It was a bittersweet end, but it was a perfect summer night to hang out with friends, recalling our favorite moments from the season.
After the first game, I interviewed Kretschman about her retirement announcement and Bandits catcher Amanda Chidester about her awards and the season. I also interviewed onfield reporter Kacy Standohar to get her thoughts on the season.
The Bandits organization continues to provide great softball action on the field while growing the sport with their fan interaction. GM Toni Calmeyn leads a dedicated, energetic staff who work very hard to make a fun atmosphere at the games. I love and appreciate the Bandits, and I already cannot wait for next season.
— John Wroblewski, online writer
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