DALLAS -- If you stood on the pitcher's mound at the Kershaw Challenge Field at the Texas Rangers Youth Academy at Mercy Street on Saturday, you would have found yourself pondering how you are inexorably in a moment between the past and future.If you looked to your left, over the
DALLAS -- If you stood on the pitcher's mound at the Kershaw Challenge Field at the Texas Rangers Youth Academy at Mercy Street on Saturday, you would have found yourself pondering how you are inexorably in a moment between the past and future.
If you looked to your left, over the first-base fence, you would have seen the Josh "Hambone" Hamilton Field, complete and ready for play. Then, if you turned to your right and looked over the left-field fence, you would have seen the construction work being done on the two-story complex that will house the Adrian Beltre Field, an infield-training facility.
The past and the future converged just outside the first-base dugout, as Jennie Finch -- softball legend, Olympian, former host of This Week in Baseball and MLB's new Softball Ambassador -- spoke for about 10 minutes to roughly 50 young girls who were at the academy for a day of training, life lessons, and mentorship.
"Don't be a second-best somebody else," Finch told the girls with enthusiasm and a smile. "Be the best that you can be. Your team needs you, this world needs you -- your gifts, your strengths."
Finch spoke briefly about her accomplishments and bringing softball to a wider audience. But her primary message to the girls was clear: "People care about you. Don't take it for granted. Take advantage of every opportunity."
Dre McKee, who played softball at Oklahoma State University, and Destinee Martinez, a career .340 hitter in 251 games at the University of Oklahoma, were two of the instructors on hand to help with coaching duties.
"These [clinics] are huge," said Martinez. "Our main focus is to have fun with the kids and just keep them involved with the game, keep them loving the game ... [as well as] teaching them the basics of it and just having fun with that."
Finch similarly stressed the importance of clinics like this in welcoming young girls into the worlds of baseball and softball.
"I think this is a huge step in the right direction," said Finch of MLBs efforts to promote these clinics. "Just seeing [MLB] really putting the footwork and the legwork in and really making sure that [getting involved at the] grassroots is a priority. It's been incredible to see that first hand. Lives have been changed through the Urban Youth Academies and the RBI leagues. ... The best is yet to come; this is just the beginning. It's our first year, so I look forward to what's to come [in the future]."
Before the girls split up into groups and began stretching in preparation for the day's workout, Finch shook a few more hands, took a couple of photos, and stood in front of the assembled girls to preach the positive message of softball, teamwork, and self-worth.
"Any day on the softball field," Finch concluded with a smile, "is a good day."
Levi Weaver is a contributor to MLB.com.