VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Shock ran through Grace Shary’s body as she realized what she had accomplished.
Shary was the first recipient of this season’s Jennie Finch Empowerment Award series, presented by ARM & HAMMER. The award was presented to Shary at the Softball Elite Development Invitational at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Fla.
“I was really shocked,“ Shary said. “Just grateful for it because that’s a really good opportunity.”
Shary is a high school student from Long Beach, Calif., slated to graduate in 2024. She’s a member of the Compton Youth Academy, a Girl Scout, and spends a lot of her free time volunteering. During the COVID pandemic, for example, she assisted in making hundreds of masks. Shary also has volunteered at multiple Compton Youth Academy events, including Play Ball; Pitch, Hit & Run; and Jr. Home Run Derby.
By receiving the award, Shary earned a $10,000 scholarship from ARM & HAMMER, and she will be recognized during a pregame ceremony at the 2022 World Series.
Finch, an MLB ambassador, Olympic gold medalist and Women’s College World Series champion at the University of Arizona, presented the award to Shary.
“It’s just the best,” Shary said. “She’s like the best pitcher ever.”
The Jennie Finch Empowerment Award, which was created in 2019, honors four young women every year who demonstrate powerful characteristics such as leadership, motivation, commitment, humility and integrity.
The four winners represent these MLB softball-based events: Softball Breakthrough Series, Jennie Finch All-Star Classic, Elite Development Invitational and the RBI World Series. The winners are selected by an MLB-led blue-ribbon panel, headlined by Finch.
“It’s everything,“ Finch said. “It’s so much fun to celebrate the next generation. I know what moments like this meant for me to be a part of and to see young girls having a light shined on them.”
The award goes beyond the field. Finch mentioned that the award highlights Sharey’s commitment and how good of a teammate she is.
“It’s so much more than softball,” Finch said. “It’s so much more than the game. It’s the qualities that they possess, the characteristics, the qualities that they have day in and day out that they bring and elevate others with.”
Sharey’s grandparents, Chris and Dorothy Sharey, were in attendance to watch their granddaughter play at the Softball Elite Development Invitational and they saw her receive the award.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Chris said. “I’m so delighted that she won it and I’m so proud of her. She put in a lot of work and I’m so proud of her. We’re blessed.”
For Dorothy, the award shines a light on Sharey’s attitude and her impact on her teammates.
“She never has a bad attitude,“ Dorothy said. “She’s always encouraging the rest of her team ever since she was a little girl. She’s not a sore loser. She just gets back on the field and does her job to the best of her ability.”
While Grace may have been shocked to win the award, two of her teammates weren’t at all surprised.
Kayleigh Allen noted Sharey’s play and how it propelled her ahead of other participants.
“I already saw it coming,” Allen said. “She’s a stud. She stood out through everything out of all of the girls.”
Desirae Melena Duran said she has known Sharey since they were kids and they immediately meshed.
“Our personalities instantly clicked,” Duran said. "It was like, that’s my best friend, [she’s] like my sister.”
Said Finch: “It’s so special to see these young girls being celebrated and for them to know that people are watching and people do see you and people believe in you and people want to empower you for the future. They see a world changer within you and they believe in you and they’re going to help you get that education on the next level.”