It's been less than two months since softball legend Jennie Finch was named MLB's youth ambassador for the sport. But she's already making big plans to help young athletes succeed."Every single day we're reading about a new trailblazer," said Finch. "And that could be any one of us. Seeing young
It's been less than two months since softball legend Jennie Finch was named MLB's youth ambassador for the sport. But she's already making big plans to help young athletes succeed.
"Every single day we're reading about a new trailblazer," said Finch. "And that could be any one of us. Seeing young girls break the glass ceiling, it's an exciting time for our game all across the board."
And with Opening Day right around the corner, Finch -- a right-handed flame thrower from Southern California -- wants to ensure that every aspiring ballplayer has a chance to get out on the field.
Finch herself followed in her brothers' footsteps and started pitching at the age of 8, but quickly realized that the opportunities afforded to them might not be the same for her.
"I grew up in L.A., so I'm a huge Dodgers fan through and through," she said. "As I got older, I thought, 'Wait a minute -- there are no women in the game. How can I be a Dodger?'
"Then my parents introduced me to softball, and that became the dream and goal. My dad always told me, 'Don't look to your left; don't look to your right. Be the best that you can be.'"
Now Finch, who's active on social media, shares that message with the young girls she coaches in clinics and camps across the country.
When Finch was younger, she recalls, formal clinincs and learning opportunities weren't as plentiful as they are today, and it wasn't until her playing days at the University of Arizona that she had the chance to participate in any. Despite that, though, she went on to win gold and silver medals with the U.S. Olympic softball team and to pitch in the National Pro Fastpitch league. Today, NPF hands out The Jennie Finch Award to the player who shows excellent sportsmanship and leadership on and off the field -- a fitting legacy for one of softball's best.
"I just look forward to helping grow the game at a grassroots level, to getting young kids out on the playing field, enjoying their gifts, encouraging their self esteem, confidence, teamwork -- all those things that sport gives," said Finch. "Being able to get to know these young girls and being an encouragement to them, you hope it goes beyond the game and the playing field."
Finch is scheduled to represent MLB at several youth softball- and baseball-focused events in 2017, including:
• "Trail Blazer" Girls Baseball Tournament, April 14-16 in Compton, Calif.
• Softball Breakthrough Series, June 11-15 in Oklahoma City
• Play Ball Park, July 6-10 during MLB All-Star Week in Miami
• Softball Elite Development Invitational, July 27-Aug. 2 in Vero Beach, Fla.
• Softball portion of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) World Series, Aug. 6-11 in Cincinnati
Allison Duffy-Davis is a contributor to MLB.com.