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The Texas Smoke fastpitch softball team is the newest professional team in Austin

A softball player holds a bat behind her head and wears a helmet.
UT Athletics
Janae Jefferson, who played college softball for UT Austin, has been recruited by the Texas Smoke.

Austin is getting new professional sports team: The Texas Smoke. The softball team will play in the Women's Professional Fastpitch league.

Brandon Phillips, who played baseball with the Cincinnati Reds, and his wife, pro wrestler Jade Cargill, are launching the team. Phillips said they chose Austin because it's a growing city and the state's capital.

He said he wanted to build a team like this because there aren’t many opportunities for women in softball after college.

"My sister was a great softball player in high school,” Phillips said. “The main reason why she stopped playing was because, after college, the women didn't really have nowhere to go."

Fastpitch softball is a form of the game that is usually played in college, most identifiable by the windmill motion that pitchers make and the rapid speed at which the ball travels.

The Women's Fastpitch League, which launched last year, is the only professional softball league in the country. For now, only four teams compete in the league, including Texas Smoke.

Texas Smoke Head Coach Tori Tyson currently coaches Howard University’s fastpitch softball team.

“I think that you watch these women through college softball and you watch them go through these amazing playoff runs, and we want to continue to see them play in their professional careers,” Tyson said. “You want to see some of your heroes and your idols continue their career.”

A number of players have been recruited to Texas Smoke, including former UT Austin softball player Janae Jefferson, who graduated last year. The team has begun training for its opening day, which is June 15.

Phillips said he’d like the team to hold tryouts ahead of its first season to give women who didn’t get the opportunity to go pro after college a chance.

“You never know who might be the sleeper, who can go out there and play because there's a lot of women who went to D2 schools or D3 schools or who retired," Phillips said. “They never had that chance to really be on a professional level.”

Haya Panjwani is a general assignment reporter, with a focus on Travis County. Got a tip? Email her at hpanjwani@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @hayapanjw.
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