Baseball Magazine

Burn the Ships Documentary

By Precious Sanders @pdsanders99

Here’s a 2017 documentary I watched a couple weeks ago that centers around women’s professional softball. National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) was a league that originated in 2004, to replace the former Women’s Pro Softball League (WPSL). This documentary, which can be viewed on YouTube, follows the Akron Racers and its players, who are struggling not only to keep their team and the game alive, but also just to survive. Professional softball players get paid only a fraction of what professional MLB players get paid, forcing most women to work second jobs during the off season. Nevertheless, their love for the sport keeps them playing, forgoing more stable lives and careers.

The phrase “Burn the Ships” is a reference to the 1519 conquest of the Aztec empire by Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés. Cortés wanted his men to realize that they had no opportunity to retreat, so they had to give this fight everything they had. To drive home that message, upon landing on the Yucatán peninsula, Cortés ordered his men to burn the ships. For the Akron Racers to survive, they realized that they, as a team, needed to “burn the ships” and to go all in on their season.

I wish I could say that there was a victorious post-script to this documentary, but unfortunately, the NPF folded in 2021, after two cancelled seasons due to COVID-19. There is still a flicker of hope for the sport, however, as the Women’s Professional Fastpitch (WPF) league was born in 2022.

You can watch the documentary below, if interested. I find it an interesting look into the world of women’s sports and the struggle to survive in the shadow of men’s sports, which seems particularly relevant given the current spotlight on men’s vs. women’s basketball in the wake of Caitlin Clark going pro.

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