- CBS Sports Network and ESPN to Carry All 30 Games Live
- Virtual Fan Experience Opportunities Include Exclusive Content and Voting Privileges, Video Chats with Players During Games, Virtual Autograph Sessions, a Pick’em Game and Downloadable Watch Party Kit
- Billie Jean King, Natalie Portman, NAACP President Sherrilyn Ifill, Senator Tammy Duckworth, Softball Legends Natasha Watley and Jennie Finch among others to participate in First Pitch Program
- Launch of Professional Development Program in Partnership with Abby Wambach and Wolfpack Endeavor to Support Athletes Off the Field
Cat Osterman, Amanda Chidester, Victoria Hayward, Taylor McQuillin, Danielle O’Toole, Joey Lye, Sashel Palacios, Anissa Urtez and Erika Piancastelli lead 20 Olympians as part of 56 world class players who will compete in the inaugural Athletes Unlimited Softball league scheduled to be played at Parkway Bank Sports Complex in Rosemont, IL, from August 29 – September 28.
In addition to Olympians, Athletes Unlimited Softball participants include two NCAA Players of The Year (Cat Osterman (three-time), Kelly Barnhill), two Rawlings Gold Glove winners (AJ Andrews, Jessica Warren), nine NCAA National Champions (Caleigh Clifton, Nicole DeWitt, Paige Halstead, Aubree Munro, Nicole Pendley, Shelby Pendley, Coley Ries, Kelsey Stewart, Jessica Warren) and one Women’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player (Jessica Warren).
“We have worked very hard to develop and build Athletes Unlimited softball from the ground up,” said Gwen Svekis, player, Player Executive Committee member and Player Coordinator across all sports for Athletes Unlimited. “Now we just want to get out on the field, play as hard as we can and help grow the sport of softball.”
“The Village of Rosemont will be proud to be the center of the professional softball universe as we host Athletes Unlimited’s softball league this summer,” said Bradley Stephens, the Honorable Mayor of Rosemont, Illinois.
Athletes Unlimited leagues will feature a range of scoring innovations to bring athletes and fans a unique and intense version of the sport. Individual athletes will earn points based on both team wins and individual performance and become the champions in team sports. Points can be earned on every play and the leaderboard will change constantly. In addition, the teams will change each week, with the top four athletes in the standings serving as captains and drafting their teams. At the end of the five-week season, the player with the most points will be crowned as individual champion.
Data-Inspired Scoring System
The athletes will compete in a fantasy-inspired system reengineered for faster competition and both team and individual play. Players will earn points in each game based on team wins (allocated by inning), MVPs of the game (three per game) and individual stats calculated via simple offensive and pitching metrics.
Fans can follow the Athletes Unlimited leaderboard in real-time at home here.
Athletes Unlimited players will be drafted onto four teams of 14 by player captains prior to the start of play. Each team will play three games per week for a league total of six games each week. Players will move up and down the leaderboard based on their team and individual performance. New rosters will be drafted by the top four players on the leaderboard each week. This process will continue throughout the five weeks of competition.
All 30 Athletes Unlimited Softball games will be available for fans to see live on a combination of CBS Sports Network and ESPN with an Opening Day doubleheader being streamed on ESPN2 on August 29 at 1:00 p.m. and 4 p.m. ET. As the lead broadcast television partner, CBS Sports Network will televise seven games in the United States and Canada while ESPN will distribute 23 games across its platforms in the U.S. ESPN will also distribute these 23 matchups outside the U.S via its platforms throughout Spanish-speaking Latin America and in Canada via its partner TSN.
Since announcing CBS and ESPN in July, Athletes Unlimited has significantly expanded its production and content distribution footprint by partnering with WAVE.tv.
Athletes Unlimited game footage and behind-the-scenes video clips will be distributed across WAVE.tv’s portfolio of media brands, with programming being prominently featured on baseball/softball media brand “Dingers,” female athlete-focused media brand “Phenoms”, and parent brand “WAVE.tv.” With over 18 media brands in the WAVE.tv portfolio, the sports media publisher has over 65 million followers and receives 3.2 billion monthly content views, on platforms which include Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube.
Athletes Unlimited will also announce a number of additional partners for game broadcasts internationally, rebroadcast on regional sports networks and additional content syndication deals prior to Opening Day on August 29.
Eric Collins and Danielle Lawrie will serve as the broadcast team for Athletes Unlimited Softball. Eric Collins is considered one of the preeminent voices for women’s softball, calling hundreds of games at the professional, collegiate and international levels including play-by-play for the USA National team, the National Pro Fastpitch Championship and Women’s College World Series on ESPN. Danielle Lawrie, a current member of the Canadian National team and former Women’s College World Series champion at the University of Washington in 2009 will provide color commentary.
Athletes Unlimited will work with Ross Mobile Productions (RMP) to produce all 30 games. Games will blend unique player access with new broadcast technologies to provide viewers in depth insight into players, game scoring and real time player rankings. The league plans to highlight these innovative elements as part of each broadcast:
- The Piero System, which is an award-winning sports analysis tool created by Ross Video. Piero uses image recognition or encoded camera heads to overlay tactical graphics on sports content. Piero brings new angles to every game, on the screen with visually engaging and informative effects that will include individual player scoring
- Inception social media integration will enable social media content to be produced into on-air graphics presentation
- Super Slow-Motion camera will be used to break down plays, pitcher’s ball release, ball rotation, bat contact and key moments
- All-Access Player Audio will deliver the sounds of the game from mics on players and umpires
Virtual Fan Experience
Athletes Unlimited will provide a robust virtual fan experience that will allow fans to be part of the action during every game. Elements include a downloadable Watch Party Kit which will include family activities and a scorecard, virtual autograph sessions with players and a Pick’em game, created by Micro Fantasy, which will offer a second screen experience where fans can guess what is going to happen during every play of the game with the chance to win prizes.
In addition, Athletes Unlimited will launch the Unlimited Club, a paid membership across all Athletes Unlimited sports leagues. The cost of annual membership starts at $19.99 with 10% of the fee going directly to the Unlimited Club Player Bonus pool. Unlimited Club benefits will include:
- Member voting on:
- How MVP points are awarded (alongside the players)
- Which player will be mic’d up during every game
- End of season Fan Favorites and All-Stars Awards
- Input on future merchandise
- Exclusive content including live video chats in the dugouts and virtual meetings and autograph sessions with players
- Access to limited edition merchandise
- Special offers from Athletes Unlimited partners
The First Pitch program will feature celebrities and local heroes throwing out the first pitch from home. Confirmed participants include tennis icon Billie Jean King, Academy Award winner Natalie Portman, NAACP President Sherrilyn Ifill, Illinois State Senator Tammy Duckworth, US National Team softball players Natasha Watley and Jennie Finch, and Good Morning America broadcast journalist Amy Robach, among others.
“We are thrilled with the roster of Olympians, national team players and decorated world class pro players who will compete in our inaugural softball league,” said Jon Patricof, CEO and Co- Founder of Athletes Unlimited. “We have put together the most robust game and content distribution network that pro softball has ever seen. This will allow fans around the world to watch the best players on the planet compete and enjoy a dynamic virtual fan experience that will include a number of elements that will connect them to every play of our season.”
Athletes Unlimited is proud to partner with Wolfpack Endeavor to launch Athletes+, a next generation professional education and career exploration enrichment program for athletes. Athletes Unlimited’s partners will help athletes leverage their skills and passions off the field. Priorities include leadership, career exploration and business acumen development. Wolfpack Endeavor, cofounded by World Champion soccer player Abby Wambach has led progressive leadership seminars for women executives from Fortune 500 companies and will bring their proven curriculum to Athletes Unlimited.
The program will run throughout the course of the season. Initiated by Wambach, programming will be managed by numerous expert instructors including Wambach’s former teammate, Shannon Boxx, who has enjoyed a successful encore career in business after playing alongside Wambach for twelve years on the USWNT.
Athletes will also participate in several civic leadership initiatives as part of Athletes Unlimited’s mission to showcase and elevate them as role models for the next generation of athletes and fans. The program will include a partnership with Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA), voter engagement programming as part of Rally the Vote, and an Athletes Causes program that will provide funding to charities of the players’ choosing equal to 50% of their season bonus. The Athletes Causes program is powered by Give Lively and includes 26 player-selected community organizations.
Mac May, Stephanie Samedy and Dana Rettke lead inaugural Athletes Unlimited Volleyball College Draft Class
Bubba Nickles and the boldness of asking questions