KANSAS CITY -- The highlight of the Softball Breakthrough Series came on the final day, when Olympic gold medalist Jennie Finch presented a prestigious new award that bears her name.
The Jennie Finch Empowerment Award, presented by Arm & Hammer, will honor four young women annually who demonstrate powerful characteristics such as leadership, motivation, commitment, humility and integrity.
The first award was presented on Sunday to Breakthrough Series participant Daniela Urena, who burst into tears as soon as Finch announced her name.
“Thank you for your hustle, leadership and attitude over the weekend,” Finch said to Urena. “I saw you put your head down, and I am guessing you knew it was you that I was talking about.”
In a conversation she had later with Finch, Urena admitted she didn’t know much about the Olympic softball star prior to this event, but she enjoyed the quick history lesson that accompanied winning this award.
“I don’t really watch softball too much, but I play the sport and I’m really dedicated to it,” Urena said to Finch. “To get an award from you … I posted it [on social media] yesterday and today all my friends are like, 'Oh my god, Jennie Finch!'”
Before Finch announced the winner, she gave a description of what kind of person receives this award and what the player did to earn it.
“This person who gets this award was the first person on to the field today and is the last to leave,” Finch said. “And that is what this is all about, the leadership and the hustle.”
Finch explained that it is about what you can control, your work ethic, giving your best and encouraging others.
“On the first day after the meeting this person gathered the girls and said, ‘Hey let’s do a cheer,’ and that is what we are looking for.”
At that point, all of the participants knew Finch was talking about Urena.
Finch, addressing the group, pointed out that Urena came to Kansas City on her own, not knowing anyone, and worked hard, showing the qualities that winning the award is about.
“We all came out here to get to know each other,” Urena said later. “We all came out here to learn new things. I feel like we all should be comfortable. Even though it [was] our first day -- ‘Hey, let’s go in strong, do what we need to do.’ We all have that person who pushes you to move forward. That’s the person I am.”
The four winners of the Jennie Finch Empowerment Award presented by Arm & Hammer will represent each of the following MLB softball-based events: Softball Breakthrough Series, Jennie Finch All-Star Classic, Elite Development Invitational and the RBI World Series.
Winners of the awards will receive a trip to the World Series and will be accompanied by Finch as they are recognized during an on-field pregame ceremony. Arm & Hammer will also donate $20,000 ($5,000 on behalf of each of the four award winners) to the MLB Youth Foundation, which will directly benefit softball initiatives.
“If I can invest in our future, if I can make a difference in one young girl's life, it was worth it,” Finch said. “Coming here to these events, getting to share our heart, our experiences and what we’ve learned, on and off the field, and hopefully helping them chase their dreams, is an honor and a gift.”