By Gina A. Dabney & Mary Willa Allen
Professional softball team the Oklahoma City Spark is elevating the sport – and the state – as the newest franchise of the Women’s Professional Fastpitch Softball League (WPF). The team, the third announced in the franchise, begins its first season in June.
The OKC Spark leadership – and professional softball leadership as a whole – is dominated by women.OKC Spark owner, Tina Floyd, is the first female owner in WPF history; she and her husband, co-owner Robert, are Oklahoma natives and business owners/entrepreneurs. Floyd, a longtime University of Oklahoma softball supporter, has been a continuous champion for women throughout her life.
“My husband and myself have three adult daughters; raising girls helped me understand the need to teach them the value of owning who they are and what they can do with their lives,” she says. “I want them to accomplish more than I have in whatever ignites them. I want them to be unapologetic for having a seat at the table, and not ever be silenced because of their gender. I feel the same passion for the ladies that will be representing the OKC Spark. Understand your worth and own it.”
Alongside that passion for supporting women is a true love for the sport itself.
“I got involved in the professional world of softball by watching and befriending the best in the collegiate world, Coach [Patty] Gasso [of OU]. I played as a child, through high school and loved the sport,” says Floyd. “Watching collegiate softball has inspired me to help create a space where these world-class athletes can continue to play the sport they love and dominate.”
Leading the OKC Spark team is head coach Amber Flores – who held the same position at Seminole State University prior. With the Seminole Trojans, Flores’ guided the team to the Junior College World Series five times in nine seasons. Flores, who played for OU and professionally, earned the NJCAA Region II Coach of the Year award five times.
Women’s Professional Fastpitch Commissioner Lauren Chamberlain, who also played at OU, has had a decade-long vision of acquiring an Oklahoma City franchise.
“Signing on the dotted line on an Oklahoma City team has been a literal dream come true,” said Chamberlain in a press release. “To give our young girls the opportunity to witness the professionals of our sport is priceless. We see how Oklahoma supports softball, and I have no doubt that it will do the same with the Spark.”
A Look at the Season
The OKC Spark has eight confirmed players signed as of mid-February, with two more to be announced in the following weeks, says Floyd.
“There will be a draft in April where we will have four selections,” she adds.
The USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex in OKC will host all the team’s home games for 2023. The season begins on June 15 and finishes Aug. 17 after post-season play. Goals are lofty, but morale is high.
“We want to put the most competitive team out on the field every game,” says Floyd. “We want to win the championship. Off the field, I want our women to have the first-class experience they deserve. I hope for young athletes to get to come to the ballpark to watch and hopefully meet their idols. I want the Spark to be a community team that allows opportunities for all fans to be engaged. We want to give back to the city of OKC and be partners for years to come.”
Floyd says that while professional softball teams in Oklahoma have been attempted before, roadblocks have occurred.
“The time is now to invest in women and in the sport, and create a team and league that understand the value of the women in this space,” she says. “It is not just a pastime; young athletes look up to these females for their accomplishments both on and off the field.”
Photo courtesy the OKC Spark