The salaries of professional athletes, softball players not excluded, vary widely. A Bureau of Labor Statistics report lists the median salary for all professional athletes at $40,480 as of May 2008. The same source cites wages for the middle 50 percent of professional athletes as earning from $21,760 to $93,710. Professional softball players' wages greatly depend upon the league for which they play; some contracts afford player revenue sharing on ticket and memorabilia sales. Other factors impacting player salary include the player's performance and ability to procure outside playing opportunities.
Major League Softball Association
The Major League Softball Association (MLSA) is a men's slow-pitch softball league. Each of the league's 30 teams contracts 16 players. Teams award six minimum and 10 maximum salary slots. The league website reports the projected minimum annual salary for 2012 as $22,500 and the maximum as $25,000. The league intends to continue raising player salaries through 2016 with the minimum salary slated to rise to $39,322 and the maximum to settle at $43,691.
Performance Bonuses and Revenue Sharing
The MLSA permits teams to award players with performance bonuses. As of 2012, each team can award contracted performance bonuses not to exceed $32,000 per team. By 2016, the per team performance bonus cap will double to $64,000. In addition to performance bonuses, MLSA players can earn additional income through the league's revenue sharing opportunities which extend to a portion of gate receipts, licensed products, trading cards, and radio and television appearances.
National Pro Fastpitch
The National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) is a professional softball league for women that as of 2011 consists of four teams. Major League Baseball and NPF work together to develop the league. NPF players play in June, July, and August and, according to the league's website, earn an average of $5,000 to $6,000 for the three months. Some players make more; each of the four teams' players' salaries can total up to $150,000. The league also provides players with housing during the season.
Factors Impacting Work
With 30 men's teams and four women's teams available to aspiring professional softball players, job openings are scarce. Nonetheless, the Bureau of Labor statistics predicts that the job market for all athletes will grow 18 percent between 2008 and 2018. Furthermore, the NPF launched a fundraising campaign to substantially grow the league by 2020. In addition to the relatively few job openings, softball players must face daunting schedules, routinely working long hours, weekends and holidays in outdoor conditions ranging from extreme heat to heavy rain. Professional softball players also risk a number of career-ending injuries every time they play.