Final pro softball league games this weekend

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 10, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
KANNAPOLIS — After helping the University of Alabama win its first Women’s College World Series title earlier this year, utility player Amanda Locke thought her best softball days might be behind her.
But when she received a recruitment call from the Carolina Diamonds, the newest franchise in the National Pro Fastpitch league, she realized there were more games to be played.
“They asked if I wanted to play softball when I finished college and I said yes because it’s a game I love,” she said.
Locke, a native of Mesquite, Texas, who joined the franchise in late June, said she’s thrilled to be part of the team.
“There are only 80 girls who get to continue playing in the pro league after college and I’m proud to be one of them,” she said. “The Diamonds is a great organization and it’s wonderful to be part of something bigger than ourselves, to get the sport out there and promote it.”
The franchise is a woman-owned-and-operated company with Amelia Nemeth at the helm.
“Our owner, Amelia Nemeth, and her husband, Alan Demaske, have put a lot of energy and attention into the team with a major hope being that the Diamonds, as well as the NPF, are a future outlet for the next generation of talent as young girls play softball and become women athletes,” Diamonds spokesman Dru Willis said.
Locke said she stands by that goal.
“The sport shaped my life, it’s made me the person that I am today and kept me on the right path,” she said. “I view this as a way to inspire young girls to play and give them what the sport has given me.
“It’s really about giving back to the game.”
But the women do more than give back to the game.
Despite a busy schedule, Locke said, they reach out to the community several times a week by visiting places like children’s hospitals and participating in local events.
“Everything we do is to promote the sport and to promote our league,” she said. “We’re trying to make it grow.”
The women play games Thursday through Sunday each week.
Home games are hosted at venues across the Carolinas including CMC-Northeast Stadium in Kannapolis, Five County Stadium in Zebulon, McCormick Field in Asheville and Flour Field in Greenville, S.C.
“You can tell from the stands that there is a special camaraderie with this team in how they are in the dugout and on the field,” Willis said. “There is a very positive yet competitive atmosphere around the ladies.”
Team members also relocated to Salisbury this summer to practice at Catawba College.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s never too much, and it’s all worth it,” Locke said. “It’s been a lot of fun, I’m enjoying it here.”
Playing softball is just a summer job, though.
Locke will take on an assistant coaching position at Northwestern State University in Louisiana this fall.
“A lot of us have jobs outside of the pro league and we just take the summer off to play,” she said.
Locke said she’s had a blast this summer competing against teams that boast former Olympians such as Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman.
“It’s an amazing experience,” she said. “It’s cool to play people I’ve grown up watching.”
The team will wrap up a series against Florida’s USSSA Pride today and Sunday at CMC-Northeast Stadium. It’s the last time they’ll play locally this season.
Games times are 7:05 p.m. today and 5:05 p.m. Sunday.
Ticket prices range from $9 for general admission to $15 for box seating.
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Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.