The women’s soccer World Cup ended Sunday, but the sports rivalry between the United States and Japan will continue this weekend in Cooperstown.
The USA Baseball Women’s National Team will make its debut at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, playing a four-game exhibition series against the Madonna Stars from Japan in the Cooperstown Women’s Baseball Classic.
Japan’s national team is ranked No. 1 the world, according to the International Baseball Federation, and Team USA is ranked second.
The event was put into motion about a year ago in the hopes of raising awareness for women’s baseball.
Brett Rudy, the co-founder and marketing director of Charity Hop Sports Marketing & Consulting in Massachusetts, has helped bring past baseball events to the HOF. Last year, he and Cooperstown umpire Bob Hall started discussing possible future events.
“We wanted to do something bigger for the next year and this was right around the time when there was a lot of news about the Little League World Series and (female Little League pitcher) Mo’ne Davis,” Rudy said. “We thought, wouldn’t it really be something if we did a women’s tournament and brought that to Cooperstown?”
After reaching out to the women’s national team and the USA Baseball organization, the idea became a reality.
“We are really excited to help make this happen because no other USA Baseball team (men or women’s) has ever played at the (National Baseball) Hall of Fame,” Rudy said.
Established in 2004, the women’s team took home the gold medal at the IBAF Women’s Baseball World Cup (WBWC) in 2004 and 2006.
The team hosts a developmental program with youth clinics, helping to promote women’s baseball.
According to Rudy, the team does not play together year-round. It comes together to practice and play in a number of events throughout the year.
This four-game exhibition series in Cooperstown will be an opportunity for the USA Women’s National Team to practice before heading to the Pan-American games in Toronto, Canada.
The Pan-American games are a multi-sport international festival, and one that the USA Women’s National Team has never been a part of, Rudy said.
“What (the team) loved about the Cooperstown Classic was that it gave them practice and the opportunity to get the team together, but also to play some high-end competition by going against the best team in the world,” Rudy said.
The Madonna Stars are a team of players from Japan’s national team, professional players from Japan’s Women’s Baseball League, and university and club team players.
Following the weekend event in Cooperstown, the USA team will be boarding a bus for Toronto and its opening Pan-Am game on July 20.
Even though it will be a quick trip to Central New York, team will have a busy schedule.
The first game of the Cooperstown Women’s Classic will take place on at 1 p.m. Friday on the campus of the State University College at Cobleskill, where both teams will also stay.
According to Rudy, the location of the first game was chosen to give back to the local community that is hosting them, before playing in the more tourist- and traveler-friendly Cooperstown.
The final three games will be played at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown. Games 2 and 3 take place at 2 and 5 p.m. on Saturday, followed by the final game of the series at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
The teams will also host two free youth clinics over the course of the weekend. On Saturday, the USA team will host a clinic in Cobleskill at 9 a.m. On Sunday, both teams will host a clinic at Doubleday Field, starting at 10 a.m.
Both clinics are free and open to youth athletes of all ages.
With the majority of their time set to be spent playing and teaching, the women’s teams are also able to be spectators for a day as well. The New York Yankees invited both teams to participate in a pre-game ceremony for an Oakland Athletics game at Yankee Stadium, and also to watch the game
“What these women show every day is that they can play,” Rudy said. “We just thought that (an event like the Cooperstown Classic) would be a tremendous opportunity to promote female athletics and female baseball.”