Finch revels in the atmosphere of LLWS

Softball legend enjoys her first visit to Williamsport

August 19th, 2018

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Like so many other fans who travel here in the middle of August, Jennie Finch can now cross visiting the Little League World Series off her bucket list.
Along with visits by the Phillies and Mets on Sunday, the former USA softball gold medalist made her first trip to Howard J. Lamade and Volunteer Stadiums -- interacting with fans and watching games, as she tried to absorb the complete Little League experience.
"It's incredible," Finch said. "Just this atmosphere -- to be here and, oh my gosh, it just gives me goosebumps and chills. Just the families that are here and just the history and tradition -- and just bringing everybody together, not only from the U.S. but even internationally. I just love it because that's what sports does; it unites people from all different cultures, backgrounds -- and [it's] just a great day to be at the ballpark."
Live from the MLB Little League Classic
Although she's never visited the actual tournament, Finch expressed her love of watching Little League -- including, of course, the Little League Softball World Series. The softball tournament just wrapped up on Wednesday, as the Central Region defeated the East, 3-0, in the championship game.
"It's so much fun to see the young girls play on ... TV and to have the goal and dream of getting that big league experience, but at a young age," Finch said. "Just encouraging their journey of becoming the player and person that they're becoming. So it's always fun to call them [on TV] every year. Just to see cities and states back their team and know they're representing something so much bigger than themselves."
A highlight among Finch's day on Sunday was a stop at MLB's Play Ball Park to hang out with a few Little League softball players from South Williamsport. The girls hopped into the cage, each taking turns hitting against Finch -- who soft-tossed a few pitches to each player. After a round of batting practice, Finch huddled the girls together to answer any questions they had about softball and achieving their dreams.
"Hopefully, I can just inspire them and encourage them on their journey," Finch said. "Keep going, dream big, anything can happen and you never know where your dreams are going to take you. Just a little reminder to keep working hard, and good things will come."

Kids of all ages and skill levels can participate in activities at Play Ball Park -- including stepping into the cage to launch home runs to the hill or putting on goggles to enter virtual reality and compete in a home run derby against other participants.
"I love it," Finch said of Play Ball Park. "These boys and girls walk in here and they're a big leaguer all of the sudden. They get to Play Ball Park and it's like, 'Here I am in the big leagues,' they've made it, able to crush Wiffle balls, they get to show off their skills. It's fun to go to a game, but it makes you want to do it. So, to see young kids playing catch and hitting here at Play Ball Park, that's what it's all about ... getting kids interested in the game and letting them fall in love with the game we fell in love with."
Finch knew she wasn't the only professional athlete on hand to interact with the Little Leaguers. Just before the Phillies and Mets pulled up to the Little League complex, Finch said the opportunity to meet her idols growing up would've been "so surreal," like these young ballplayers would get the chance to do on Sunday.
"I can't imagine a better boost for these young kids, to be able to see that [the big leaguers] are tangible, they're real, they're right in front of me and we're playing the same game," Finch said. "I love seeing, too, the Little Leaguers that have become big leaguers -- so these kids know that it is possible and anything can happen. Their dreams are big, and that's what we need. We need a lot of big dreams in this day and age."
and of the Mets and of the Phillies are three of those examples, having played at Lamade Stadium in 1998, 2004 and '06, respectively. Both New York and Philadelphia made stops over at the Little League World Series before the second-annual MLB Little League Classic at BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field.
"It's like the Disneyworld of Major League Baseball," Finch said of the Little League Classic. "To be able to have the 'bigs' and the 'littles' together, celebrating baseball -- the game, the families and just the memories that are made. It couldn't be a better atmosphere or a better place to be."