Softball will be included in the 2028 Olympics as a standard part of its program for the first time since 2008. This inclusion might save the future of college softball's best players.
Despite the massive growth that college softball has experienced in recent years — proven by viewership records and out-drawing the men at 2022 College World Series — professional softball is still very much in the shadows, in terms of cultural awareness and attention.
Although National Pro Fastpitch — the United States' former professional women's softball league, which was disbanded in 2021 due to the pandemic — has been replaced by the Athletes Unlimited and Women's Professional Fastpitch leagues, pro softball still presents little in terms of financial compensation; along with there being minimal long-term stability and opportunities available for the world's best softball players.
Yet, the 2028 Olympics (which will take place in Los Angeles) could change that.
Softball's inclusion in the '28 Olympics will allow the sport to occupy space on the world's biggest athletics stage — and in doing so, can help secure a future for softball's biggest stars.
Take Jocelyn Alo, who is arguably the best college softball hitter of all time. Alo graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2022 as the all-time NCAA leader in home runs (122), slugging percentage (.987), and total bases (761). While Alo is now playing for the Oklahoma City Spark of Women's Professional Fastpitch league, she admitted to Sports Illustrated that professional softball is struggling to keep up with college.
"Sometimes I feel like when you get into pro softball, you kind of fall off the face of the earth, almost," said Alo,
Playing at the professional level was never Alo's goal when getting into softball. Rather, it was playing in the Olympics. Now Alo's goal can finally be realized.
"For us to be at the Olympics, on literally the biggest stage, is huge," Alo said. "I can't even put it into words. It's just—I'm speechless trying to comprehend and wrap my head around the fact that I could actually be playing in the Olympics."
So not only will the Olympics provide former college softball players a chance to realize their dreams, but it could also be the platform professional softball needs to gain a foothold in the cultural consciousness.
At the very least, 2028 Olympics inclusion keeps the light at the end of the tunnel shining for softball players; offering hope that, in the future, collegiate success might not be the sport's peak.
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