A team of hard-slugging, fast-pitching former Olympians, All-Americans and all-conference Division I women's softball players will make its debut this summer at Consol Energy Park in Washington.
The Pennsylvania Rebellion, a professional women's softball team, will join the Washington Wild Things in calling the park home.
The Rebellion is part of National Pro Fastpitch, the only pro women's softball league in the United States. In addition to the Rebellion, the league will consist of three other teams this season: Akron Racers, Chicago Bandits and USSSA Florida Pride, who defeated the Rebellion, 2-1, Friday night in the season opener in Salisbury, Md.
Cheri Kempf, the NPF's league commissioner, is confident Washington is the right place for an NPF team, especially because its new managers are the same ones running the Washington Wild Things, the Frontier League independent baseball team.
"Washington will do a great job with turnouts and advertising," Kempf said. "We sell franchises, and this was a good fit."
Those running the Rebellion know how the business works, she said.
"Some people buy a softball team because they love the sport, but what they don't know is, they are buying into the sports entertainment business," she said. "I'd rather have someone who knows nothing about softball and everything about business than know everything about softball and nothing about business."
At one time, the league had six teams, but as seasons have passed several teams have fallen through.
"Teams go in and out," Kempf said. "It's just like a restaurant that opens and closes. It all depends on the potential. There are a million different reasons for this."
Despite teams going under, Jenn Salling, the Rebellion's shortstop and a former member of the Canadian National Team in the 2008 Olympics, said this team has a lot of potential to stick around in Washington.
"I think it will be different up here," Salling said. "I'm excited to be part of this new team and make this thing last."
The Rebellion also hired Rick Bertagnolli as its head coach. He currently is California University's softball coach and a member of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Bertagnolli has led California to 17 NCAA tournament appearances and two national championships.
"Starting out, I never expected this," Bertagnolli said. "It's a very, very special honor to be here."
This is the first time Bertagnolli will be coaching at the pro level. He understands there will be a transition from the college game.
"These athletes are the cream of the crop," he said. "Roughly 92 of the 125 best players in the nation play in this league. The physical and mental parts of the game are different. There's a dramatic increase in the mental aspect, but the character and fun is the same."
Pitcher Sarah Pauly, in her 10th season in the league, has played with several teams including the USSSA Florida Pride. She is excited, however, to be part of the new franchise.
"It's new to all of us. I'm looking forward to the new experience. I'm ready to start history," Pauly said.
The team is especially excited about playing at Consol Energy Park.
"The stadium is a huge, huge improvement," Pauly added. "They've really out-done themselves."
"It's a beautiful ballpark," said Lauren Lappin, a catcher and infielder.
She is another former Olympian who played on Team USA in 2003 and 2008, winning a silver medal with the 2008 team.
"The playing field and setup [of the park] is top-notch," she added.
But what can fans expect when they attend a women's pro softball game?
"They're going to watch people who love to compete," Salling said. "They are going to watch people who love the game and respect the game."
The Rebellion is in the midst of a four-game road series against the USSSA Florida Pride, but will play their home opener Thursday as part of its 48-game season.
Tickets prices will run from $5-$15 and can be purchased by calling 724-250-9555, online at rebellionprosoftball.com, or at the park's box office.
Ryan Petrovich: rpetrovich@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @RyanPetrovich.