COMPTON, Calif. -- Dozens of young girls got the softball experience of a lifetime Saturday afternoon, as American softball legend Jennie Finch hosted an event at Major League Baseball's Compton Youth Academy.Finch, the two-time U.S. Olympic softball medalist, took her familiar position on the rubber to offer instruction to more
COMPTON, Calif. -- Dozens of young girls got the softball experience of a lifetime Saturday afternoon, as American softball legend Jennie Finch hosted an event at Major League Baseball's Compton Youth Academy.
Finch, the two-time U.S. Olympic softball medalist, took her familiar position on the rubber to offer instruction to more than 90 female athletes who grew up learning of her pitching prowess.
"This is the best part about who I am and what I get to do: Being able to give back to the next generation, empower them, encourage them," said Finch, MLB's youth softball ambassador. "Yes it's about the game, but it's so much more than that. I just love the hunger, the love of the game that just shines off the field."
Finch seemed right at home on the infield dirt, clutching a bright yellow softball in her right hand as she shared her pitching knowledge. While she was sure to go over fundamentals and mechanics, Finch wanted the girls to understand that so much of the game --and life-- is mental.
"Our most powerful tool is between our ears and we are in control of it," Finch said. "I think too often, just with social media and everything else, we let so many voices and garbage come in. And it's like, 'No, be you, stand out, be courageous, be strong, and keep being you.' We have to have our most powerful tool working for us and not against us."
Finch wasn't the only softball star making an impact on the next generation Saturday. Former pro softball player and local product Amber Freeman spent the afternoon in the batting cages, where the girls took swings off a tee. Meanwhile, Youth Academy coaches hit countless ground balls and fly balls. There were also stations focused on baserunning and calisthenics.
Saturday's free clinic, which is part of MLB's efforts to incorporate softball into its overall Play Ball and youth outreach initiative, reminded Finch just how far softball has come since she rose to the top of the sport in the early 2000s.
"It's just so fun to see these young ladies going after their dreams, putting the haters aside and just going after their goals that they have set and just going after it with a fire," said Finch, who noted such events weren't around when she was growing up. "It fires me up every time I leave. There are girls that are taking busses to games. It's on them and they are doing it and I love it that nothing is stopping them."
Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter at @JALaymance.