By Jayson Knight
Professional softball is coming to Oklahoma, thanks to the Oklahoma City Spark, one of a few teams that will compete in the Women’s Professional Fastpitch league. The Spark is the third team that has so far been announced to the WPF, following the Pride out of Viera, Florida and the Vipers of Evansville, Indiana.
Lauren Chamberlain, who played first base at the University of Oklahoma from 2012 to 2015, is the commissioner for the WPF, as of September 2021.
Tina Floyd, a member of Tuttle’s Class of 1992, is the Spark owner, and is currently in the process of determining a general manager, coaches, and venue for the team. A friend of OU’s legendary softball coach Patty Gasso, Floyd knows well the importance of quality leadership.
“I have been a supporter of OU Softball for several years and a friend of Coach Gasso for years as well,” Floyd said Monday. “Leadership is a pivotal part of what makes them successful. Coach Gasso is phenomenal. She is a mentor to these females and teaches them so much more than softball. She encourages them to give back to the community, to be servant leaders and remember why they are playing. She instills greatness in them from the minute they step on campus. Coach works hard to ensure her athletes have all their needs met and are prepared for their next task.”
Floyd said the administration she selects for the Spark will need to be community-minded individuals.
“We have a vetting process that we’re starting right now,” Floyd said. “Several, several names have come to us. I’ve been around softball at the collegiate level long enough to know there are a lot of people who want that opportunity, but we want to find the right fit. We want to keep this a very community-based team, making sure our athletes are giving back, our coaches are giving back, and our GM is giving back. That’s what we want to set us apart from other teams. We’ll announce that about October/November.”
As far as the venue, “I think a lot of people would immediately assume it would be Hall of Fame Stadium, that that is the perfect fit, but it’s going to be a logistics thing. We are going to reach out to them, but there are so many venues in Oklahoma we could play at. We might do something where we go to different towns to play to let more families be able to come see. We’ve been approached by so many, and that’s another announcement we will make about when we announce our coaches.”
The WPF launched this year, replacing the National Pro Fastpitch league. The Spark will begin play in June 2023.
“It’s becoming wildly popular,” Floyd said of softball. “It’s exciting. It’s different, and there are phenomenal athletes out there. The sport is growing for sure. It’s hard to make it without a lot of community support. This is a restructure of an older league. The Pride and the Vipers are both competing in the league’s inaugural season after being a part of the older league. Anyone who really knows the game knows who Lauren Chamberlain is, and once she was named the commissioner, that brought a lot of new eyes to this. With her at the head of it, I just knew I had to be attached to it. We’re pretty certain there is going to be another announcement soon on a fourth team. The plan for the league is to grow that by two or four each year. I love being a part of it, and I am a huge proponent of propelling women forward in whatever they want to do. What better way to do that than bring professional softball to the softball capital of the world. “
Floyd taught in Oklahoma City, and was a principal at both Mustang and Bridge Creek. She will soon finish her doctorate in Education. Floyd began playing softball at a very young age, played for the Lady Tigers a couple years, and her love for the sport only grew from there.
“I started playing at age five or six,” Floyd said Monday. “It’s one of my earliest memories. I played some travel ball too while living in Moore. That’s where my family was from. About eighth grade, we moved to Tuttle. Then, I played a little as a freshman and sophomore. I loved the sport. I made great friends and memories when playing. I played for Coach (Jerry) Bates and I still remember the dread of two-a-days starting in August. If you made it through that, you were going to be okay! I love how Tuttle continues to move the sport forward and be one of the elite teams in the state year after year! Tuttle has a great program, and I’m excited to see what they continue to do. When you tell someone who knows softball that you played at Tuttle, they know what that means.”
For more information on the OKC Spark, find them on Facebook.
For more information about the league, go online to wprofastpitch.com.