How does a city become the undisputed “Softball Capital of the World?” It happens when generations of people and tenacious leaders see the potential in the powerful female athletes and the city of OKC.
Many names come to mind when considering how this came to fruition — such as Don Porter, a longtime figure in the world of softball who helped bring the sport to the Olympics in 1996 and build the USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in OKC. Also, of course, OU women’s softball head coach Patty Gasso, who has led the Sooners team to seven national championships.
One of the modern faces of women’s softball is the stunning Lauren Chamberlain. She is taking what Porter, Coach Gasso and many others started and carrying it further on a national stage than many people imagined possible.
Chamberlain’s softball career as a player was full of accolades. She played for the OU Sooners softball team from 2012 to 2015, and as a collegiate All-American, she was part of the 2013 Women’s College World Series championship team. She is the NCAA Division I career leader in slugging percentage. She also holds the school and Big 12 Conference career lead in RBIs, walks, total bases and runs.
Her love for the sport started early in her life, “I’m originally from Orange County, California, and literally the first thing I remember doing was playing softball. It was pretty immediate that ‘Okay, this is my sport.’”
Coach Patty Gasso recruited her as a high schooler to play at the University of Oklahoma. Even though OKC was extremely different from “The OC,” Chamberlain felt a connection with the area immediately. She said, “I didn’t know much about Oklahoma, but I do remember being here and thinking, ‘People are looking out for other people here.’ I remember feeling that if I broke down on the side of the road that somebody would stop to help me. I did know that I would be taken care of. Coach Gasso said, ‘If you come here, we will win. If we put all the pieces together we will win a national championship.’” And win they very much did.
After college, Chamberlain was drafted #1 and played professional softball in Florida for the USSSA Pride of National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) from 2015 to 2018, winning a title in her final season in 2018. After the NPF league folded due to lack of resources during COVID, Chamberlain saw a gap that needed to be filled, and helped form a new national professional women’s softball league in 2021: Women’s Professional Fastpitch (WPF).
Chamberlain was asked to fill the role of league commissioner, and accepted. “When I say we had to grow this thing from the ground up, that’s exactly what we did. We basically started from scratch.”
The league has four teams total and just completed its first full season. WPF is headquartered in Oklahoma City and its professional team here, the Oklahoma City Spark is headlined by superstar and current home run champion Joceyln Alo.
On opening night, OKC Mayor David Holt conveyed the significance of the moment by stating, “Never in the 134-year history of our city have women worn an OKC uniform in the major league of their sport. That is, until this weekend!”
Having recently moved on from her role after the completed season, Chamberlain’s aspirations for herself and female softball players are high. What’s next for Chamberlain? Not only is she planning a gorgeous OKC wedding to her fiance fitness trainer, Tj Gipson, she will continue on as an ambassador and host for the MLB TV, and has plans to take her sports brand management agency L/C Management Group to the next level. It currently reps some of the heaviest hitters in the world, including Alo, and the list keeps growing.
But first and foremost, as has been the case since she was a child, Chamberlain will continue to be a champion for the softball community. “Anywhere that has an opportunity for me to advocate for the sport — that’s where you’ll find me. Pushing the sport forward, pushing the women in the sport, that’s my goal.”