Let’s Make Showcasing More Affordable

It’s imperative that we not allow parents to stress financially

We caught up with Firecrackers President Tony Rico at the 2018 Colorado Sparkler.  He’s in the process of making changes in his organization that he hopes will help the sport of softball in the future.  One of his objectives is to make it less expensive for families to showcase and develop their kid s.

For many parents, that will come as a great relief at a time when many organizations are asking for more money.  Here’s why he and some of his colleagues are moving in that direction.


Travel Ball Travel Tip: A Quick Way to Earn Free Flights

Travel Ball Eats: You had me at Churro Ice Cream Sandwich

Travel Ball Eats: You had me at Churro Ice Cream Sandwich

A great place to eat while in Denver for the Colorado Sparkler

The Churro Ice Cream Sandwich… It’s what I used to convince our group to go the restaurant and it did not disappoint.  It is truly spectacular with the flavors of cinnamon, sugar, caramel at the bottom of the plate mixed the vanilla bean ice cream.  It was just majestic.   By the way we were the first ones to arrive on Saturday evening and they ran out so go early. 

Churro Ice Cream Sandwich

But there’s so much more….

First off, you have to want to eat or try Asian food and flavors, and be a little adventurous if you want more than just dessert.  


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Some of us ordered the Lao Wang beer, a local lager which, as of publishing this article, we heard the brewers had shut down. But it was a great bear with the flavor of an IPA without the bitterness.  We hope the brewing of this beer resumes!


Steamed Buns with your choice of braised pork, pork belly or duck confit were very enticing.  We chose the pork belly (duh) and it was great.  Bones did a good job replicating the consistency of the Asian Steamed Bun, but added a little more flavor with less fluffiness.


Few places offer Bone Marrow.  The marrow was spiced with a caramelized onion and bacon seasoning which gave it a bright flavor.  The crispy toast was a perfect compliment.


The Tropical Shrimp Ceviche was excellent.  The mango and pineapple flavors brightened the dish.

Main Course


Much of the menu consists of soup noodles: ramen, udon, soba, etc.  One of the most popular among our party was the Wagyu Beef Ramen.  Wagyu is beef that has a lot of marbling that is genetic to the kind of cow, bred a specific way and offers increased omega-3 and -6 fatty acids.  There was a tasty broth with mushrooms, shallots and you can add an egg for $2.  It was wonderful.


There was also high praise for the Braised Pork Udon.  Tasty broth, flavorful pork and satisfying noodles.


The Yellowtail Tuna Soba is a cornucopia of flavors in a bowl.  Fish spiced with chili sauce, cucumbers and carrots, pickled ginger, avocado on cold soba noodles combined to create a wonderful bowl of joy and happiness, especially on a warm summer day.



The churro ice cream sandwich needs no more discussion.  But the ice cream was pure yum.  We had coffee, caramel and the swirl.  The flavors popped.



As dessert was brought out, staff also handed out shots of their homemade sake, which was refreshing and alcoholic.  Always a good combo.

Unfortunately, all this goodness does not come cheap.  But Chef Frank Bonanno has created a menu that inspires and awakens the senses.

New Rules Help Yale, Ivy League Schools

“Change your life with the education you can get”

Yale Softball’s Head Coach talks about how the new rules help her recruiting.  She also reveals what her school needs to see before they commit players to the softball team.



See also:

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 1.43.19 PM      Harvard Softball’s Jenny Allard talks about the players she recruits to her program

NU Thumbnail  College Profile:  Northwestern University’s Kate Drohan wants players to be  bold and courageous.

Carol Hutchins    Michigan’s Coach Carol Hutchins: Standing out above the rest

NPF Commish on the State of the League

“If you want your sport to survive, you have to develop the world”

It’s been a dramatic off-season for the NPF, but the professional league’s 15th season is underway.  After losing two teams, Texas Charge and Scrapyard Dogs, the NPF has five teams competing for the title.  The Chicago Bandits and the USSSA Pride have been strong contenders for years.  The Akron Racers has morphed into the Cleveland Comets, which has a roster of several Chinese players.  The Shougang Eagles from Beijing, China and the Aussie Spirit from Australia round out the foreign contingency.  This season, most games will be available to watch for free on NPF TV.  Some games will also appear on ESPN+.

We spoke to NPF Commissioner Cheri Kempf about the State of the League today.

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Softball Nation:   This is the 15thseason for the NPF, what is the state of the league and what are you hoping for this season?

Commissioner Kempf:  We’re celebrating the 15th season, that’s quite an accomplishment especially in women’s professional sport.  But we’re very much still in the developing stages of a professional sports league, so I think it’s really not a lot different from the way it has been every year since I’ve been the commissioner in the way that we want to continue to strengthen our partnerships.  We want to continue to increase our exposure and we’re doing that through various digital platforms and the expansion of NPF TV.   And we want to continue to increase our team expansion so we’re able to get more great players and continue our great level competition.

SN:  The Texas Charge and Scrap Yard Dogs are out of the league now.  How are you dealing with the loss of those teams?

CK:   I think it’s fair for the public perception to say that losing teams is a negative.  I would say that it’s not always a negative.  And I think that what we know is that we have to have the right people with the right vision and the right intentions and folks who want to be team players, that are involved in the development of this league.   So I will tell you that it’s not my way to look back.  It’s my way to look forward and that sometimes the public perception is exactly that.  I’m optimistic and the only thing negative that I see is just a bit of time consumption on negativity.  And I think anytime you’re spending time on negative things whatever that might be at any level, that’s not efficient and where you want to be.

SN:  The NPF added the Aussie Spirit from Australia this year.  The Shougang Eagles were added last year.  What do these international teams add to the league?

CK:   They add an international flair an international field, global coverage, global appeal to different partners.  And all of that is from the business side.   From the softball side, at its very core, it is the most dramatic addition and contribution to the survival of our sport as it sits right now.  And when I tell you that, I will tell you that you have to recognize history.  You have to understand that how successful Australia has been in the sport.  Their softball program is one of the most successful Olympic programs in Australia.  And China played for the gold medal in 1996.  Both those teams are a shadow their former selves currently because of the natural waxing and waning process that comes with the funding in their respective countries, or if they are an Olympic sport or if they are not an Olympic sport.

The only way to take away that waxing and waning is to have that professional level survive of the ability for these countries to participate because iron sharpens iron. And I think that if you don’t see that, a lot of people say that “China they’re just not strong enough,”.  Well as softball fans, that should bother us because China was a world power back in 1996 and 1992.  So if you want your sport to survive, you have to develop the world you have to care about surviving everywhere and that is represented in every major professional sport look at the major sports league what they’re doing look at the Major Leagues (MLB) in Japan.  Look at the Major Leagues in the Dominican Republic. Look at the NBA in China. That’s not just about money, it’s about securing the sport.  And the broader that coverage is the broader that participation is, the harder it is for it to go away.

SN:   There seems to be an opening in relations for NPF players to play on Team USA now and the relationship seems to have improved.  What do you think about that?

CK:  For the record there was never a restriction for NPF players to play on Team USA. There was a restriction from Team USA that started in 2010 of players playing on team USA and playing on the NPF. Somehow that restriction has gotten lost again and people don’t know the history of the sport. I’ll tell you what I think about it, is that it’s crazy. First of all we should be winning gold medals, dominate this sport as a country.  Look at our college program.  We should gold-medal every single time.  To do that, the assumption is that you should have your best players on the national team and I think that most people would agree with me that the highest level of competition has been the NPF.  So what I think of it is that it is an absurd concept that we would not operate as one that the professional level of this sport would not be cooperating with Team USA and vice versa.

I am a former team USA member, I am a former team USA coach. I believe we should win.  And I think that my position has always been, and if you look at the public record, we should always be that we are holding hands.  We should be working together. And I agree with you that it’s better and I would say further that it could still be better.

SN: We have a new draft class coming in the NPF.  They are some of the best players in the NCAA. What are your hopes for them?

CK: The future is always in the next class but I think it’s great that Kelly Kretschman is still playing and better than ever at 36 or 37 years old.  And it tells you how important the professional level is.  But the draft classes and the fact that every year we take the top talent are the college game into this league and continue to get better and continue to reach their potential.  As a teacher and trainer in the sport, I think it’s incredibly rewarding to see women reach their athletic potential.  Some of the women that are in the league have extraordinary talent, and I mean that in the true sense of the word. Their abilities are extraordinary.  It’s a very small percentage of people.  And if you don’t have a professional league you’re going to see them stop at age 20 or 21?  22 years-old they’re gonna walk away?  That’s like having a third grader walk out like they’re going to know everything they need to know in the third grade?  They haven’t even touched the surface of what they can learn.  I’m excited about the draft class I always am. But I’m excited about seeing some of these talented players continue to get better.