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National Pro Fastpitch League expands to Tennessee

January 5, 2010

MARYVILLE, Tenn. (January 5, 2010) – The National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) League announced today that a new professional women’s softball team, the Tennessee Diamonds, has been franchised and will begin play in 2010 in Blount County, Tenn.  The last time a professional sports team operated in Blount County, Dwight D. Eisenhower was President of the United States.

“This is an exciting announcement for National Pro Fastpitch,” said Cheri Kempf, Commissioner of the National Pro Fastpitch League.  “Tennessee is a fantastic location for this new team. The addition of the Diamonds adds an expansion team geographically in a great southern spot for the League — and the fact that it is located in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains will offer fans additional entertainment options while taking in a Diamonds game.”

“East Tennessee is known throughout the country for its support of women’s athletics through the Lady Vols and, of course, the legendary Pat Summitt. Ralph and Karen Weekly and their Lady Vols team introduced successful softball to the area and in turn, the fanbase has grown for the sport.  This will be a great home for the Diamonds.”

Sarah Fekete, a former Maryville High School and University of Tennessee softball standout who later played professionally for the Philadelphia Force, will be the General Manager of the Tennessee Diamonds.

Fekete, a native of Maryville, was instrumental in the tremendous 2006 Tennessee Lady Vols softball season. A Lady Vol softball center fielder, she was named a 2006 NFCA First-Team All-American and led the nation in hitting with a staggering .500 (110-of-220) batting average. Fekete was selected as the 2006 Lady Vol Athlete of the Year and was nominated for the SEC Female Athlete of the Year.

During 2006, Fekete set a new SEC record for single-season hits (110) and completed her career as the all-time Tennessee leader in batting average, on-base percentage and stolen bases, while finishing second in all-time runs scored and hits.  She went on to play for the NPF’s Philadelphia Force professional softball team for three seasons and in 2009 was named to ESPN’s “All-Decade Softball Team.”

“Bringing professional softball to my hometown is amazing,” Fekete said.  “Most people don’t realize that there are more young women playing softball in this country than there are young men who play Little League Baseball.  It’s a fantastic sport and it does great things for young athletes – having the Diamonds based here will do wonders for the sport and for local players and fans.  It truly is a family-oriented, fan-based sport and a perfect fit for East Tennessee.”

The Tennessee Diamonds’ franchise agreement with the National Pro Fastpitch League was finalized on Dec. 29, 2009.  The team may have a permanent home in the Ripken baseball and softball complex, but will play its first season at a temporary facility in Blount County.  With the franchise agreement, the Tennessee Diamonds also obtained rights to the Rockford Thunder roster which includes softball superstar Cat Osterman.  The new team is currently working on contract renewals with Rockford Thunder players and should release player information soon.

Karen Weekly, co-head coach of the UT Lady Volunteers softball team, said, “Ralph and I are excited to welcome a NPF franchise to Knoxville. It’s important that our outstanding college softball players have the opportunity to continue their careers at the professional level.  Our Lady Vol program has enjoyed tremendous fan support, and I’m sure those fans will be thrilled to get behind professional softball as well.  This is a great day for softball in Knoxville and the entire state of Tennessee.”

USSSA Chairman of the Board and CEO, and fellow NPF Team Owner, Don DeDonatis, said, “USSSA could not be more pleased and excited that the Tennessee Diamonds have selected the Knoxville area as their permanent home. Knoxville and its surrounding communities have a rich tradition of supporting world class sporting events, such as the USSSA Smoky Mountain Classic, and I am certain that the NPF and women’s professional fastpitch softball will be an overwhelming success.”

“I look forward to the challenge that the Diamonds will present on the field when the USSSA Florida Pride comes to town.  Monica Abbott against Cat Osterman — it just doesn’t get any better than that.”

Pro softball captured the attention of fastpitch fans worldwide when it was started in 1997.  Since then, what was originally called the Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL) has regularly showcased an unparalleled brand of fastpitch softball played by the world’s best female athletes.

Kempf said, “Fastpitch softball was an overwhelmingly popular sport fan-wise at the Olympic level. With the absence of softball as a medal sport in the Olympics, the time is right for professional fastpitch softball to take a position as a viable career opportunity for these talented young women.”

The last professional team to call Blount County home was the Maryville-Alcoa Twins, the Class D Minor League affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.  The Twins played at Hunt Field, a 3,000-seat stadium on Hunt Road across from the Alcoa North Plant, before the team moved to Morristown in 1954.  Some of the stadium’s foundation can still be found on Alcoa property on Hunt Road.

National Pro Fastpitch is headquartered in Nashville, Tenn.  More information about the athletes who will play for the Tennessee Diamonds and the team’s 2010 schedule will be announced in coming weeks.  For more information, visit www.TennesseeDiamondsSoftball.com.

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For more photos, logos, interviews or more information about the Tennessee Diamonds, contact Rick Laney at (865) 441-2388.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Randy Dyke permalink
    January 5, 2010 11:31 pm

    Huge news!!!
    We have a 8 -9 yr old girls fastpitch travel team called the Lunachix from Newport Tn and they have already gotten the news and they are very excited! So are the parents and coaches. Can’t wait to find ticket info and bring the girls to some games!
    I have big hopes that in the off season you will hold softball clinics for the little ones. That would be an awsome expierence for the kids.
    Can’t wait for more info and to buy my daughter her first Diamonds shirt.lol

  2. Phillip Estes Jr. permalink
    January 7, 2010 3:08 pm

    This is absolutly amazing. My daughter will be playing 9-10 softball this year here in Dickson, TN. She was very excited to hear this. Look forward to attending games and purchasing the whole family a Diamonds shirt. Can’t wait to here more news about fan clubs, rosters, schedules and tickets.

  3. January 9, 2010 5:00 am

    Welcome to Tennessee. Look forward to attending some games.

  4. Amanda Williams permalink
    January 19, 2010 11:31 pm

    Hi!!! My name is Amanda Williams and I am a member of the team! We are very excited about the move and hope to bring a Championship to Maryville! We love to meet fans and hope everyone comes out to support! The games provide a great atmosphere and competitive softball. Look forward to meeting you all!!! GO DIAMONDS!

  5. Randy Dyke permalink
    January 20, 2010 5:36 am

    Amanda Williams :

    After spending four seasons as the Herd’s starting center fielder, Amanda Williams joined the Marshall softball staff in 2006 as a volunteer assistant coach. In July of 2008, Amanda was named to the position of assistant coach.

    Williams ended her stellar college career as the school’s career leader in hits (265), runs scored (184), at bats (717), doubles (72), RBI (142) and total bases (408). She is fourth all-time with 20 career home runs. She was a four-time first team all-conference selection, including three first team all-MAC picks and a first team all-Conference-USA honor in 2006. Williams also was a three-time first team all-region honoree, and also picked up a second-team all-region nod, MAC Freshman of the Year (2003) and The Parthanon’s Female Athlete of the Year in 2003.

    During her senior season, she and twin sister Jessica were drafted by the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF). She batted .256 with one home run and 14 RBI during her first season with the Bandits. Williams currently plays for the Rockford Thunder, which won the 2009 NPF title and was also named a NPF All-Star in 2009.

    She earned her bachelor’s of science degree in exercise physiology in December 2006 and her master’s in athletic administration in 2008.

    Welcome to East Tn Amanda! Our girls 8-9 yr old travel team are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the TN Diamonds. They have been very excited since we told them the news. Hopefully we can squeeze in many games between our own games and bring the girls out. I know they will love it.

    Hope you didn’t mind the short bio. It just sounded like it was worth bragging about to me. 🙂

  6. James permalink
    April 10, 2010 4:32 am

    Do you have a season schedule yet with a player roster. Would like to bring some girls from Kentucky to see a game.

  7. Anonymous permalink
    June 13, 2010 7:49 pm

    Their schedule is on this website:

    Tennessee-diamonds.ticketleap.com
    (615) 232-2400

  8. Sylvia permalink
    July 23, 2010 2:28 am

    Just wondering where exactly the team is playing. On this website it states Alcoa, Tn but I live near Nashville and there was a recent article in the local paper stating the team was playing at David Lipscomb University in Nashville. Which is it? Would like to attend a game or two but need to know for sure where I am going as Alcoa is 3 hours east of Nashville – big difference.

  9. March 18, 2016 6:32 am

    I’m not sure exactly why but this website is loading incredibly
    slow for me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a issue on my end?
    I’ll check back later and see if the problem still exists.

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