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Finch works with young softball players in NOLA

50-plus girls mentored by gold medalist at New Orleans Youth Academy
Special to MLB.com

The opportunity to learn from one of softball's most decorated pitchers doesn't come often.

Former U.S. Olympic medalist (gold in 2004, silver in '08) Jennie Finch, now a coach and 37-year-old mother of three, hosted a free softball clinic for girls Saturday at New Orleans' growing Urban Youth Academy.

The opportunity to learn from one of softball's most decorated pitchers doesn't come often.

Former U.S. Olympic medalist (gold in 2004, silver in '08) Jennie Finch, now a coach and 37-year-old mother of three, hosted a free softball clinic for girls Saturday at New Orleans' growing Urban Youth Academy.

"It's such a thrill to be here in New Orleans," Finch said. "Softball isn't as popular as you'd like it [to be] in the city, so just to see these girls come out here, this is such an escape for them. To be able to just focus on softball, have fun, be able to come hang out here after school, this Youth Academy is just huge for this community and for the future of these young girls in our sport.

"Just to see them shine on the field, there's nothing greater."

New Orleans' Youth Academy put turf on the complex's softball field and increased softball-focused personnel, resulting in a 60-percent increase in softball participation at the Academy in the past year, said Eddie Davis, the director of the New Orleans Youth Academy.

In total, 685 boys and girls are registered for spring training sessions at the Youth Academy, Davis added. Of that, on a weekly basis, nearly 200 girls are registered for training.

Learn more about MLB Youth Academy

Because none of the eight universities in the New Orleans area has a softball program or team, the Youth Academy has taken pride in being the hub of softball development for young players in the city.

"I think the next progression would be for a junior college or a university to bring back a women's softball team," Davis said. "And now you've got a direct funnel. I think it's going to grow even more. Now they can watch games. They can get recruited from [the Youth Academy], and now you give young ladies an opportunity to play at the next level."

Finch was accompanied by former LSU All-American outfielder Bailey Landry. Landry, a native of Prairieville, La., was a member of the National Pro Fastpitch League's Scrap Yard Dawgs before the franchise announced its termination in January 2018.

"I'm excited to spread the game of softball to Louisiana," Landry told the group of 50-plus participants. "You guys are my heart."

Finch's free clinic Saturday was her second of this kind since late February. Finch, who was named MLB's youth softball ambassador in January 2017, is also scheduled to host the JF World Series on June 20-24 in Sulphur, La.

Saturday's participants went through a series of calisthenics drills, hitting in the Youth Academy's indoor batting cages and a pitching tutorial taught by Finch.

"It's really a great experience, because Jennie's such an icon in softball and in American softball, period," said Khaja Bradley, one of the more experienced pupils at Saturday's clinic. "She's a great pitching coach. She knows everything."

Christian Boutwell is a contributor to MLB.com.