Angelina Sannicandro was caught off guard, in the best possible way, when she learned that she had won the Jennie Finch Empowerment Award presented by ARM & HAMMER at the Jennie Finch Classic that took place recently in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Sannicandro, a pitcher/infielder for the Phillies' Urban Youth Academy, thought someone else was going to win the prestigious award -- someone from Team Houston or Team Compton, she thought, because they went to the finals.
“When [Finch] said my name, my heart sank to my stomach. I was like freaking out,” Sannicandro said in a phone interview with MLB.com.
The Jennie Finch Empowerment Award presented by ARM & HAMMER, celebrates four young women each year who demonstrate positive characteristics through their participation in several MLB-led softball programs. Winners of the Award receive a $10,000 college scholarship, courtesy of ARM & HAMMER, as well as a trip to the 2021 World Series, where they will be recognized prior to a game.
No wonder Sannicandro, who was also recognized on the field at the Phillies' game Wednesday, had such an emotional reaction.
“I started crying. My parents were crying,” she said. “I was just insane. They hand me this big check and I was overwhelmed. It did not feel real at all. Then Jennie Finch is like, ‘Oh, by the way, you are going to the World Series.’ I just kept crying. I was very emotional. I was freaking out.”
Her father, Brian Sannicandro, said he was ecstatic after learning his daughter won the award.
“To be recognized for what she does on the field is certainly great. But understanding what the award means and what qualities they were looking for in a young adult certainly made me proud,” he said. “For her, she is involved in so many things academically, and she is involved in initiatives and community service. She obviously loves playing softball. As a parent, [her mother, Gina] and I are super proud of her.”
Sannicandro’s credentials built a solid case for her candidacy. She was the leader of the Phillies' Urban Youth Academy team, and even though the team struggled in the Classic, Sannicandro told her teammates not to give up until the game was over no matter what the score was. She brought a great attitude to the club.
But the Empowerment Award is also about what happens off the diamond, too. The 17-year-old Sannicandro loves working with kids, and she was a camp counselor the past two summers, including during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was lauded for creating a safe, enjoyable environment for the kids.
In return, kids loved being around her, especially when it comes to teaching the game of softball, and she’s been recognized for her work as a coach for young girls. She did such a great job this summer that she won a Philadelphia-wide award for “Most Outstanding Youth Worker.” She did a lot of programs on Zoom, and she played games virtually with the kids, as well. Sannicandro was gifted a laptop for her hard work.
“I love kids,” Sannicandro said. "When I was younger, my mom always worked with kids. After school, I would go to work with her. She worked in an after school program. That’s how my love for kids came about. I love working with kids, especially the younger ones.”