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Welcome Beijing Shougang Eagles to Akron Firestone Stadium

Prior to the June 21, 2017 Womens' National Pro Fastpitch game between the Beijing Shougang Eagles and the Akron Racers, Margaret Wong purchased a block of tickets, and handed them out to various friends including OCA Cleveland, the Cleveland International Fund, the Cleveland State University Confucius Institute and friends at Neomed Medical School.

We and many of our friends attended. When we arrived, we met Joey Arrietta, President and General Manager of the Akron Racers.  She immediately introduced us to Craig Stout, CEO of the Akron Racers.  Joey and Craig are two of the owners of the team. With Margaret Wong not able to attend the game, Joey and Craig invited us to sit with Craig in the owner's box, immediately behind home plate. What an extraordinary view!

 Beijing Shougang Eagles at bat against the Akron Racers June 21, 2017.

Beijing Shougang Eagles at bat against the Akron Racers June 21, 2017.

Naturally, having driven Cleveland to Akron, are you expecting you know the Akron Racers owners so well? Not I. Turns out Craig's mother, Audrey Stout, was our Social Studies teacher at Shaker Heights High School. Small world!

Pink in the Park

At the break after the 4th inning, GM Joey Arrietta and several associates passed big plastic pink buckets around the stands, seeking $1 donations toward the Akron General Muffins for Mammograms Program.

The Akron Racers have a robust commitment toward helping community organizations in fund-raising efforts through revenue sharing, whereby an organization can set up a table at the entrance to the park, sign up people interested in participating in their organization, and also sell tickets to the ball game such that if they sell a minimum of 20 tickets for that day's game, they get a return of $3.50 per ticket.  If they're really successful, and sell 500 tickets for that evening, they'd receive a check for $1750 -- and they and their customers would enjoy a really great game of fast pitch softball. 

So What Exactly is FastPitch Softball?

Most of us are familiar with baseball.  The bases in baseball are 90 feet apart, and the outfield fence is 320 feet at the foul poll and 400 feet at center field. Baseball fastballs typically clock at 90 to 100 miles per hour.

By contrast, the Fastpitch softball diamond measures 60 feet between bases, and the centerfield fence is generally about 200 yards. Fastpitch pitches are a bit slower than those of baseball, at 75 to 85 mph -- though of course much faster than the 25 mph pitches of softball.

Burn the Ships

The Akron Racers came out with an inspirational and highly acclaimed film, debuted at the 2017 Cleveland International Film Festival.  Entitled, "Burn the Ships," it refers to the practice of burning ships to prevent an army from retreating when the going gets tough -- and is a tribute to the difficult journey women's sports has in achieving the stage where women can hope to make a career out of playing FastPitch.

"Burn the Ships" is a story about The Akron Racers, Joey Arrietta's ongoing efforts to inspire her players, build the fan base, and improve the global acceptance of fast pitch softball -- but it's also a call to women everywhere to stand up for their rights to achieve their dreams -- to keep striving to be their best, and in so doing, improve the world.

Meet the Beijing Shougang Eagles

The Beijing Shougang Eagles were quite willing to have photos taken, and after I observed a young man (pictured here) having the whole team sign his T-Shirt, I had Ms. #6 sign the back of my shirt. We're really hoping to see more of the Beijing Shougang Eagles in the near future!

Gordon Landefeld