The Marlins, Expos, Nationals and Manatees are gone, but Brevard County still has its Pride.
The USSSA Pride, an independent fastpitch softball team organized by the United States Specialty Sports Association, is Brevard’s only professional sports squad, with a current roster of 17 former college players.
The Pride’s home games are at USSSA Space Coast Stadium — formerly known as Space Coast Stadium — at the 85-acre USSSA Space Coast Complex at 5800 Stadium Parkway in Viera.
“We’re having lots of fun playing exhibition games, mostly at home but also across the country,” said Paul O’Leary, USSSA’s director of marketing.
Founded in 2009, the Pride originally played in the Nashville-based National Pro Fastpitch league. The team won seven regular-season titles and NPF Cowles Cup championships in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2018 and 2019, before leaving the NPF in 2019 at the end of its 10-year contract. In 2017, the Pride relocated to Brevard after the USSSA moved its national headquarters from Kissimmee to Viera.
During this year’s 35-game exhibition season, the Pride faced several independent teams, but played most of its games against Olympic squads Team USA, Team Mexico and Team Canada, going 7-13 against teams that competed recently in Tokyo.
“One of the nice things about not being in a league is you can make those series with who you want,” O’Leary said.
“It’s good because we have some of the best players in the world.”
This season, the Pride played its road games in the Midwest in stadiums such as Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana, Rent One Park in Marion, Illinois and the Shawnee School District Softball Complex in Shawnee, Kansas.
Several local athletes have played for the Pride, including Kelly Kretschman, a Satellite High School star, two-time Olympic medalist and three-time NPF Player of the Year. Eau Gallie High School and Florida State standout Alexandra Nicole Powers is in her fifth year with the team as an infielder.
Before the USSSA moved to Viera, Space Coast Stadium was the spring training home of the Florida Marlins from 1994 to 2002, the Montreal Expos in 2003 and 2004 and the Washington Nationals from 2005 to 2016. The Brevard County Manatees, Gulf Coast Marlins and Nationals also played minor league games at the stadium.
As part of a $36 million renovation, USSSA converted the stadium to a softball park and added 14 all-turf softball and baseball diamonds nearby. The complex mainly hosts youth and adult baseball and softball tournaments all year, which draw players, fans and families from across the country.
The Pride ends its May-to-August exhibition season with a six-game homestand, hosting Team Florida in a three-game series Aug. 2 to 4, and the Carolina Collegiate League for three games Aug. 5 to 7.
Pride games start at 7:05 p.m. and tickets range from $5 to $10. To order tickets, go to etix.com/ticket/e/1018288/pride-2021-viera-usssa-space-coast.
O’Leary is unsure whether the Pride will play another exhibition season in 2022, but whatever the future holds, the team will keep playing, he said. “The Pride is very, very important to the USSSA,” O’Leary said. “I think the future is bright.”
Despite the Pride having played in Viera for four years, some people still aren’t aware that they can watch some of the best softball players in the world in action here in Brevard, O’Leary said.
“One of the complaints I hear is, ‘I miss going to watch a minor league team,’” O’Leary said. “I ask them, ‘What do you miss?’ And they say, ‘I miss having a burger and a hot dog and a beer.’ And I say, ‘Well you can come and do that now. Come and watch the Pride play.' "