Girls of Summer: Fastpitch taking the field for Pelicans

RebellionThe Pennsylvania Rebellion is one of the newest teams in the National Pro Fastpitch professional softball league, but is quickly becoming one of the most recognizable.

The Washington, Pa. based team is hosting two games at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark in Myrtle Beach on Thursday, July 28 and Friday, July 29 against the Texas-based Scrapyard Dawgs.

The team plays most of their home games at Consol Energy Park in Washington, but also tours the East Coast to gain exposure and inspire young players. When looking for potential locations, the Rebellion’s general manager Steven Zavacky knew that the Myrtle Beach Pelicans were the perfect team with which to partner.

“You’re talking about one of the premiere vacation destinations on the eastern seaboard,” Zavacky said. “The Pelicans have a very good reputation. Knowing that there were tournaments going on down there this week and that the Pelicans were away, it was a natural fit. Everybody that I’ve dealt with with the Pelicans organization has been phenomenal. I think we’re going to be very successful.”

The idea for Zavacky to schedule Rebellion games in Myrtle Beach actually occurred at the end of 2014, but the dates between the two organizations did not match up. But after reaching out to the Pelicans prior to the 2016 season, the two days in late July worked perfectly.

“The number one thing is that we try and partner up with a Minor League facility that has a softball tournament being hosted in that community,” Zavacky said. “When we went to York, Lancaster, Allentown and Salisbury, they all had massive tournaments going on. There are a couple tournaments going on in Myrtle Beach while we’re there. It’s a natural thing for these young girls to want to come and see their heroes play.”

In their third year as an organization, the Rebellion team is not afraid to travel to get recognized. Myrtle Beach will be the fifth city they play a “home” game in, and the players have gotten used to playing softball games on a baseball diamond. Temporary fences will be set up in the outfield, and the infielders will have to play through the obstacle of the baseball mound in front of second base.

“I won’t say it’s an ideal situation, but it’s nothing off the wall,” said Zavacky.

The Rebellion’s home field is shared with the Washington Wild Things, an independent league professional baseball team that plays in the Frontier League. The Wild Things use a temporary mound, so that the Rebellion can play the majority of their home games with a level infield.

“We share the stadium,” Zavacky said. “It’s all artificial turf, even home plate, even the pitcher’s mound. The pitcher’s mound is very unique. It’s a fiber glass shell with six pieces, covered in artificial turf that we’re able to pick up and remove for the softball games.”

Despite pitching on an unfamiliar surface, most of the baseball pitchers warm up to it quickly.

“The pitchers are all very skeptical until they go out and throw on it one time,” noted Zavacky. “After they throw on it, they realize that they don’t have to worry about a hole. It’s a firm, solid landing surface and most of the pitcher really like it.”

Zavacky also noted that the difference between the Wild Things and Rebellion is that Rebellion softball is a major league sport. Zavacky and the coaches are responsible for the drafting process, player transactions as well as scouting.

“We follow a lot of college softball.,” he said. “The beauty of it now is the popularity that the college game has. You have all these games televised, whether it’s the Big Ten Network, ESPN, the SEC Network. The best softball in the world is in the SEC, and you get to see almost all of their games by subscription service. We scout, and we also have relationship with college coaches. It’s very similar to Major League Baseball, where we’re out scouring the college ranks to see who these best players are and then you put together your draft list and then prioritize by your positions of need.”

In addition to drafting, recruiting and player development, Zavacky and his staff are also responsible for finding sponsors as well as bringing fans into the ballpark and making sure they have a good experience.

“It’s all about building the brand – both the Rebellion brand and the NPF brand, while exposing as many young girls as possible to the sport.”

One of their signature promotions is simple, but also one that people will remember and appreciate.

“Starting at 8 o’clock, an hour after first pitch, we freshly bake cookies on site,” said Zavacky. “We have a local dairy that sponsors it. Anybody in the ballpark can come up behind home plate and get a cookie and a half pint of milk for a buck.”

Whether it’s the softball or the cookies, the Rebellion and NPF are beginning to master the art of entertainment, and the Pelicans couldn’t be more excited to help build the brand and bring professional softball to South Carolina for two games in late July.

Photo courtesy of MB Pelicans

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