The ASA sent its first Men’s National Team to a World Championship in 1966 as the ISF hosted its inaugural championship in Mexico City, Mexico. The Sealmasters of Aurora, Ill., who won the ASA Men’s Major Fast Pitch National Championship in 1966 to earn the right to represent the United States, captured the first ever gold medal for the United States in any fast pitch world championship with a perfect 11-0 record.
Only the winners of the ASA Men’s and Women’s Major Fast Pitch National Championships were allowed to represent the United States at international events until 1986 when the ASA went to an All-Star format that allowed teams to add three additional players to their rosters that did not compete in the ASA National Championship. This change proved to be successful for the United States as the Raybestos Brakettes captured the 1986 ISF Women’s World Championship with a perfect 13-0 record.
By 1990, the ASA had followed most other countries in selecting an All-Star team to represent the United States in World Championship competition. This practice had been common place among other countries but the ASA had always sent the national champion in the major division of the ASA National Championship as their entry into all previous World Championship.
On June 13, 1991 shock waves were sent through the softball community as the International Olympic Committee announced the inclusion of the sport on the Olympic program at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Ga. This announcement meant the sport of softball would finally be showcased to the world and had finally found its place among the other elite sports.
The ASA had campaigned harder than any other country for the honor of being included in the Olympics and now it was time to make the most of the opportunity. It was not enough for softball to be on the program, the charge of the ASA would be to first earn a spot into the Olympics as one of the top eight teams and then to not only win, but win big in the Olympics.
It was a responsibility that officials at the ASA took very seriously. First on the list was the establishment of a national coaching pool and a national team selection committee. ASA officials believed that in the process of fielding the best players in the land, they must insure that those players would be mentored by the best coaches in the sport.
Pivotal to the success of the program was the establishment of the USA Softball National Team Selection Committee. This committee was charged with the difficult and sometimes unpopular task of making the final cuts for the team that would represent the USA at every international competition leading up to the Olympic Games and ultimately deciding who would be on the final Olympic roster as well.
The concept worked to perfection as the United States captured the first ever gold medal in the Olympic Games with a 3-0 win over China in the finals of the 1996 Olympics. Since then the U.S. has won all three Olympic gold medals and seven World Championship gold medals.
In 2006, during the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy the sport of softball was dealt a huge disappointment as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to remove the sport of softball and baseball from the Olympic program in 2012. This decision was a shock to the softball community world wide.The shock was felt again in 2009 when the IOC upheld their decision to exclude softball from the 2016 games as well. The fate of Olympic Softball will again be in the hands of the IOC in September of 2013 when they vote whether or not to reinstate the sport for the 2020 Games.
With softball being eliminated from 2012 Olympics, the ASA decided to create the World Cup of Softball in Oklahoma City in 2005 to give the top countries in the world an event to compete in on a yearly basis. The 2005 World Cup of Softball was a huge success with over 18,000 fans from across the globe gathering in Oklahoma City to witness competition between the top five teams in the world.
The World Cup of Softball was quickly established as one of the premier events for the sport of softball in the world. At the II World Cup of Softball, attendance broke records and television ratings were the highest they have ever been for a USA Softball event on ESPN or ESPN2. With partners like ESPN and participation from the top teams in the world at the World Cup, this is an event that is going to continue to grow and could be just what the sport needs until it regains its status in the Olympic Games.