In the history of professional U.S. team sports, there has never been a woman with a contract of $1 million or more — until now. Monica Abbott, described by espnW as the "most valuable player in the world" in women's fastpitch softball, has signed a contract with the Houston-area Scrap Yard Dawgs that will run for six years and pay her exactly $1 million.
Although the math and fine details of the contract are complex — Abbott will make $20,000 a year with attendance bonuses making up the rest — the symbolism of the final number is what's most important. The first $1 million contract for a baseball player (Nolan Ryan in 1979) was also structured in a bizarre way, and Abbott's is an even bigger landmark than his because it paves the way for so many up-and-coming female athletes.
"I think it's a proud moment for National Pro Fastpitch," league commissioner Cheri Kempf said. "But I think it goes further than that. I think it's a proud moment for women in professional sports in this country. I feel glad that it's happening in the league. I'm glad that we're going to lead the way, in some respects."
The athlete wasn't lost on the gravity of the moment either:
At 30 years old, Abbott already boasts a very impressive résumé. She's a three-time NPF champion, the league's reigning MVP, a 2008 Olympic silver medalist, 2007 national softball player of the year, and holds NCAA records for strikeouts, shutouts, games pitched, and wins.
"In my mind, it represents an opportunity for the younger players in our game," she said. "I see opportunities for other athletes, for the college girls coming in [to the league], for the college freshmen, for the 12-year-olds. I see opportunities for them to only be a professional softball player. To not have to have another career, another job. Hopefully it just raises the bar of our sport."
Considering that nice round $1 million number that's attached to her now, it's very likely thousands of young women around the country will be inspired to one day reach the same level through athletic prowess.