A softball player signed one of the most lucrative playing contracts ever offered by an American sports franchise to a professional female athlete on Thursday.
Pitcher Monica Abbott announced on Facebook that she signed a six-year, $1 million with the Houston-area Scrap Yard Dogs of the National Pro Fastpitch softball league. It is the first million-dollar contract in the league’s 13-year history. The league has six teams and plays a 50-game regular season.
"I think it's a proud moment for National Pro Fastpitch," league commissioner Cheri Kempf told ESPN. "But I think it goes further than that. I think it's a proud moment for women in professional sports in this country. I feel glad that it's happening in the league. I'm glad that we're going to lead the way, in some respects."
ESPN reported that the league salary cap is set at $150,000 and most players barely make over $20,000 per year. Abbott’s deal is structured in a way that she will earn a base salary of $20,000 for six years along with attendance incentives. She makes the bonus whenever games reach 100 fans, whether or not she’s pitching or her team is playing at home or on the road.
Abbott, 30, was a Silver Medalist in the 2008 Summer Olympics and was an MVP and three-time pitcher of the year for National Pro Fastpictch with the Chicago Bandits. She also threw the first perfect game ever recorded in the Olympics.
Last season, Abbott went a remarkable 13-1 with a 0.31 ERA and 149 strikeouts in 90 1/3 innings.
"In my mind, it represents an opportunity for the younger players in our game," Abbott told ESPN. "The pro league, it's continued to grow year in and year out. And even with my Bandits teammates, we were constantly talking about creating a future for the next generation. For me, that's what I see in this deal. I see opportunities for other athletes, for the college girls coming in [to the league], for the college freshmen, for the 12-year-olds. I see opportunities for them to only be a professional softball player. To not have to have another career, another job.
"Hopefully it just raises the bar of our sport,” she added.
The Scrap Yard Dawgs will make their league debut on the road against the Bandits on June 2-5 at The Ballpark at Rosemont. Their first home stand is June 10-13 in The Woodlands, Texas, against the USSSA Florida Pride.
CBS Sports Network will broadcast 23 games. The NPF league has been the official development partner of Major League Baseball since 2002.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.