AKRON, OH – Before the Akron Racers play in their home opener on Wednesday night (June 21) against the NPF’s newest team the Beijing Shougang Eagles, the team hosted fans for two showings of Burn the Ships, Think Media’s feature-length documentary on the 2015 Akron Racers and the history and struggles of women’s professional softball in America, at the Akron-Summit County Public Library. The night also marked the first time seeing the movie for the Racer players and each of them left the theatre moved by the journey laid out in the film. Between the showings the team also held a meet and greet which afforded fans the chance to take pictures and get autographs while meeting many of the team’s members.
“I’m overwhelmed, I think that’s the most beautiful thing that you can put together,” Akron pitcher Laura Winter said. “I can’t even put into words how much that means to me, and how much I think that means to the team and the league itself. Just to get this message out and in front of people to see the struggles we go through everyday just to come out on this field and put on a jersey to come out and play… especially at Firestone Stadium.”
Seeing the movie the night before the team gets ready to take to the newly remodeled Firestone Stadium made the moment all the more special for some players.
“I found it incredibly inspiring, especially with our home opener tomorrow,” Racers veteran Jennifer Gilbert said. “I started tearing up on the part about Joey (Arrietta, Racers GM), and for (Lisa) Norris too, because I absolutely loved playing with “Chuck”.
“We absolutely do play for Joey and it was a great reminder of why we do this.”
The movie showcases the final games of Racer great Lisa Norris’ career as she moved to retirement.
“I was extremely blown away. There were so many things I didn’t know about our history and it brought a lot of things to attention to me,” Akron catcher Hannah Day said. “It’s something a whole lot bigger than I thought it was and it just gets me excited for playing tomorrow.”
Burn the Ships debuted earlier this year at the Cleveland International Film Festival, where the film’s directors Danielle Miller and Julia Thorndike, of Think Media, won the ReelWomenDirect Award for excellence in directing by a woman.
“I thought that it was amazing,” Racers outfielder Shellie Robinson said. “I was in it from minute one to minute eighty-eight. It was awesome seeing the history of it and of course Joey and effort and emotion that she puts into it.”
“Throughout the whole thing I just kept feeling proud to be a part of it and helping in the little way we can, Akron second baseman Ashley Thomas said. “It was put together so well, they did an amazing job.”
The film also made a unique impression on some of the Racers’ rookies who are beginning to get their first taste for the league and everything that goes into making professional softball a reality.
“It gave me chills,” Racers outfielder Kristen Wyckoff said. “It was such a great inspiration to me, to be able to think that I can be a part of making this league grow.
“Playing for Joey and seeing everything she does for the league, for us, for this program means a lot to be a part of it.”
Fellow outfielder Nicole Schroeder agreed with Wyckoff that the chance to help grow the league is a special opportunity.
“It’s really inspiring to see what you get to be a part of now,” Schroeder said. “It’s awesome to be a part of growing the sport.”
Rookie Chandler Rice wants fans and everyone who views this movie to see what professional softball players go through and understand why they commit to doing the things they need to do to be successful.
“I hope people realize that we’re doing this because we love it and we’re doing it for those young girls that are the future of the sport,” Rice said.
Finally, while a lot of the movie takes the viewer behind the scenes of the sport and focuses on what happens off the field, it also weaves a story on the field true to sport and the seeking of a championship. Many players spoke of the movie motivating them to get back on the field and to help the Racers finish the unsuccessful mission in the movie of bringing a Cowles Cup in 2015, this time succeeding the in the quest in 2017.
“I was floored by (the movie), I couldn’t believe everything that went into it. The time spent and the production to be made was amazing,” Racers pitcher Emily Weiman said. “I walked away feeling like I want to go win a championship.”
Tickets for the Racers home season, which begins with a home stand from Wednesday, June 21 through Sunday, July 2 in which Akron will play 11 games at home. Call the Racers box office at 330-376-8188 for more ticket information on the 2017 season.
About the Akron Racers: The Akron Racers, headquartered in Akron, OH, are the oldest existing team in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league. The Racers will celebrate their 16th season of play in 2017. The Racers competed in the Women's Pro Softball League (WPSL) for two seasons in 1999 and 2000 and in the NPF since 2004. Historic Firestone Stadium is home to the Racers and numerous amateur events at all levels of play.
About National Pro Fastpitch (NPF)
National Pro Fastpitch (NPF), an Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball since 2004, provides elite female athletes with an opportunity to pursue a professional career in fastpitch softball beyond their collegiate and amateur success. The NPF affiliate teams consist of the Akron Racers, Beijing Shougang Eagles, Chicago Bandits, Scrap Yard Dawgs, Texas Charge and USSSA Florida Pride for the 2017 season. National Pro Fastpitch players hail from the United States, Australia, Canada and China among which are the most accomplished and talented athletes in the sport of women’s softball.
About Think Media Studios
Think Media Studios, a Cleveland-based video production company, specializes in video production, virtual reality, motion graphics, sports videos, corporate videos, short form documentaries, 3D animation, healthcare videos, content marketing, brand stories and story-telling. With a business team, production team and post-production team, Think Media has successfully produced award-winning video content and multimedia assets for over 100 clients since its start. For more information, visit www.thinkmediastudios.com.