Softball star Abbott pitches for change after signing record deal

Monica Abbott celebrates after pitching a no-hitter at the 2008 Olympics. The 30-year-old American's fastball reaches 123kmh. She is the first woman in US team sport to sign a contract worth US$1 million.
Monica Abbott celebrates after pitching a no-hitter at the 2008 Olympics. The 30-year-old American's fastball reaches 123kmh. She is the first woman in US team sport to sign a contract worth US$1 million.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Softball star Monica Abbott has become the first woman in American team sport to sign a contract worth US$1 million (S$1.36 million).

The pitcher won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics with the US team and now plays for Houston's Scrap Yard Dawgs, who only established themselves in the National Pro Fastpitch League last October.

Her contract is for six years and she will earn a base salary of US$20,000.

Most of the remaining money will come from bonuses linked to attendances, with her salary capped at US$180,000 a year.

The bonuses should be easy to make: games must have more than 100 fans in attendance. The league average is around 1,000 per game.

"In my mind, it represents an opportunity for the younger players in our game," Abbott told ESPN. "The pro league, it has continued to grow year in and year out.

"And even with my (former team the) Bandits... 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, 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."

The former Grand Slam tennis champion Billie Jean King, founder of the Women's Sports Foundation, called the deal "historic".

"This contract recognises Monica's talents, her accomplishments and her contributions on and off the field and it sends the right message that women's professional softball is stepping up and making salaries and athletic achievement a major priority in their league," she told ESPN.

"This is a historic contract for professional softball and for all women's sports and I hope it is the first of many to come."

Abbott stands 1.9m and her fastball reaches 123kmh.

She threw a perfect game at the 2008 Olympics and had an earned run average (ERA) of 0.31 last season. The league average was 2.86. She also plays professionally in Japan.

Despite her new contract, Abbott, 30, is unlikely to be the highest-paid female athlete in America.

Football star Alex Morgan is estimated to have earned as much as US$5 million last year, although the vast majority of that figure was in endorsements.

Similarly, athletes in non-team sports can earn much larger sums: Serena Williams' prowess on the tennis court earned her US$10 million in prize money alone last year.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2016, with the headline 'Softball star Abbott pitches for change after signing record deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe