ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When Kimberly Medina was growing up, her youth softball coach told her she should pick an idol to try to model her game after.The choice was a simple one for Medina; Jennie Finch was one of the most dominant players in the sport at the time,
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When Kimberly Medina was growing up, her youth softball coach told her she should pick an idol to try to model her game after.
The choice was a simple one for Medina; Jennie Finch was one of the most dominant players in the sport at the time, and Medina wanted to learn to command her pitches with the same precision that Finch did.
On Sunday, during the opening banquet of the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) World Series, Medina had the chance to meet her hero. Finch was on hand at the banquet, and she presented a $1,000 scholarship to one player from each of the eight softball teams playing in the tournament.
For Dream RBI out of Harlem, N.Y., that player was Medina.
"When I first heard my name, I was really shocked," Medina said. "I wasn't expecting anything. As soon as I saw her, I almost fell. I kind of squealed a little bit, because it was Jennie Finch, and she said my name."
Finch, who led the U.S. team to an Olympic gold medal in Athens in 2004 after a decorated collegiate career at the University of Arizona, awarded the scholarships to players in recognition of their values and character both on and off the field.
"After two years of doing the Breakthrough Series and [Elite Development Invitationals], you just come back so inspired," Finch said. "These young girls are doing so much and love the game with all their heart. With the hurdles that they're overcoming and adversity that they're facing, and to still show up with a smile on their face is just so inspiring.
"I want them to know that I see them and that their hard work isn't going unnoticed. I would love to help them pursue their next goal and dream, and that's playing in college. If I can do that, I would love to be a part of it and help them in their journey."
Finch was named Youth Softball Ambassador by Major League Baseball in January 2017, and she has been heavily involved with RBI as well as several of MLB's other outreach initiatives since.
On Monday, Finch and former softball superstar Natasha Watley were in attendance at Dunning Sports Complex to watch the second day of RBI World Series Pool Play.
With the duo watching on, Medina tossed five innings of one-run ball in a win over Rays RBI Tampa, though she did her best to treat it like just another game.
"I was like, I'm not only going to try to pitch well just because Jennie FInch is here," Medina, who in a few weeks will begin her collegiate career at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx, said. "I'm going to do it for my teammates. I know how hard we all worked to be in this moment."
The RBI program is an MLB youth initiative designed to provide young people from underserved and diverse communities the opportunity to play baseball and softball. The program is in its 26th year, and this year's softball tournament, hosted by the Twins, is the 24th iteration.
"This is a family," Armana Ware, who was Tampa RBI's recipient of the scholarship, said of her teammates and coaches. They've helped me build character and build respect toward others and understand what a team really is about. Honestly, it's been amazing. It teaches me that there's so much to be grateful for in playing the game of softball."
Jarrid Denney is a reporter for MLB.com based in Minneapolis.