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Washington Glory owner Paul Wilson & his team won the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF)


Not to diminish a successful effort, but softball has become almost secondary for Washington Glory owner Paul Wilson. It's merely a front to provide yet another positive experience for Fairfax County youngsters.

And after two years of his team's existence, Wilson has found success on two fronts: The Glory won the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league championship in its first season and continues to provide one of the most wholesome and entertaining bangs for your buck.

“This was our first game, but we're going to start coming more often,” said 12-year-old Caroline Cook, a Centreville resident who joined one of her friends, Courtney Huling, 13, in a third-inning dance competition during Monday's 3-2 loss to Chinese Taipei. “We liked the [entertainment] between innings, the musical chairs competition and Gloria [team mascot].”

Six teams comprise the NPF league and players from across the country can be found in the Glory dugout. Players are paid to play and a few even work during the offseason as instructors at Wilson's Dulles area training complex, Diamond Elite.

Though the Glory's record fell to 11-6 with Monday's loss, the team has had its share of highlights over the past week and a half. In a 3-0 win over the Venezuelan National Team on June 22, ace pitcher Desiree Serrano tossed the first perfect game in team history.

Additionally, on the day before Serrano's gem, first baseman Oli Keohohou broke the league's all-time home run record with her 28th career blast. The powerful slugger even crushed a two-run shot -- her fourth of the season -- Monday that gave the Glory a short-lived 2-1 lead in the sixth.

But long before Pan Tzu Hui's ninth-inning homer ended a 2-hour, 14-minute affair, Glory players ensured that fans had a night to remember -- even if that required an unconventional approach.

“Players get involved between innings ... from dancing to having their pooches run the bases with them and throwing prizes to the fans,” said public address announcer, radio voice and in-game entertainment chief Jarrod Wronski, who somehow manages to do all three. “It's not just a sport, it's a fun time.”

The Glory played its inaugural season at George Mason University but has since -- due to a $2 million field upgrade -- been shifted this summer to Westfield High School. When asked by Mason officials to describe his long-term vision for the team, Wilson didn't hesitate.

“I want the 'Leave it to Beaver-style' atmosphere,” he said. “I want the kids smiling, laughing, playing games between innings and hanging out for an hour after the games -- whatever it takes to hang out with the players.”

Glory players are available after every game for autographs and pictures, and Serrano vehemently denied any burden placed upon her and her teammates. Instead, the hard-throwing righty focused on how special it is to serve as a mentor to young girls like Cook and Huling -- something Serrano didn't have much of when she was younger.

“We're paving the way,” said Serrano, who was named the 2007 NPF Pitcher of the Year. “If we were men, the way would have been paved for many years, and now that the league is starting to grow, these little girls have somebody to look up to.”

Source - fairfaxtimes


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