Academy Notebook: Texas Rangers softball to participate in Jennie Finch Classic; North Texas Giving Day

Fall training program; Whataburger Rising Star Christian Lopez

September 17th, 2021

Texas Rangers softball to compete in Jennie Finch Classic

This weekend Texas Rangers Youth Academy softball will participate in the Jennie Finch Classic in Oklahoma City. After a slight hiatus due to the pandemic, the tournament is back with games beginning Friday, Sept. 17.

Major League Baseball and MLB Youth Softball Ambassador, Jennie Finch, will host the third annual competitive youth softball tournament at the USA Softball Hall Fame Complex.

The Texas Rangers Youth Academy has assembled a 17U team with 15 of the strongest softball players to compete against NOLA YA, Houston YA, Compton YA and Phillies YA. The five teams will compete to advance to the Jennie Finch Classic Championship Game on Sunday, Sept. 19, at 9 a.m. CT.

“This event has typically been held during All-Star week, but this year the girls will have a chance to play on the same diamond as the best players in the world,” said Juan Leonel Gárciga, Director of Youth Baseball & Academy Programs. “The tournament will be held in OKC where team USA trains and home of the College Softball World Series.”

In 2018 the Texas Rangers Youth Academy finished as runners-up and lost in the semifinals in 2019. In their first year back, the girls are ready to capture that elusive championship win.

Ximena Zamarron, a three-time member of the Texas Rangers Jennie Finch Classic team, said, “I feel like we will perform really well this weekend. We’re a talented team. We all get along and have great chemistry.”

Joining Zamarron in Oklahoma City are first-time Jennie Finch Classic competitors Angelica Rios and Natalia Escalante. Escalante has been attending the Youth Academy for four years and is very familiar with the talented athletes that make up Rangers softball. “I know we are one of the best teams out there,” she said. “Every one of us is talented, and if we play together, we will be very competitive in this tournament.”

While competing in the Classic is a unique experience in itself, the young athletes will also have a chance to meet Jennie Finch, who Gárciga describes as “A legend, who is among the most influential softball players in the sport's history.”

Angelica Rios is a young player who has always admired Finch for her hard work and determination as an athlete on the softball diamond. “I am excited to meet Jennie Finch and be a part of this team,” she said. “We have an amazing group of girls who all love the game and work well together. It's a blessing playing alongside people who want to win just as much as you do.” 

The girls will be led by head coach Mackenzie Velasquez who served as an assistant coach on the Rangers RBI Softball All-Star team at the regional tournament in July.

The girls are ready to hit the road and show what the Texas Rangers Youth Academy can do at the Jennie Finch Classic. Their first game will be played tonight, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. CT versus NOLA YA.

North Texas Giving Day is around the corner

The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of those in the community - especially children, the military and first responders, and their families - through educational, health, and athletic programming that brings meaningful change. As North Texas Giving Day quickly approaches on Sept. 23, consider donating to the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation.

While the Foundation helps people across North Texas and beyond, the Texas Rangers Youth Academy has a special mission to make a difference for youth in West Dallas. Often considered one of the most challenged areas in the metroplex, the Youth Academy offers a bright spot for West Dallas kids looking to develop into better athletes and Major League citizens.

To find out more about how the Youth Academy has changed the lives of kids in the community, listen to their stories by watching a video that describes the why behind it all— “A Kid Just Needs a Chance.”

To donate to the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation and help continue the Youth Academy’s mission in West Dallas visit,

Fall baseball and softball programming at the Texas Rangers Youth Academy

Fall Programming at the Texas Rangers Youth Academy started Monday, Sept. 13. Programming is open to all baseball and softball players ages 7 to 18, with instruction occurring multiple nights each week.

Whether your child is picking up a glove for the first time or has been playing for years, the Texas Rangers Youth Academy will help build their skills and knowledge of the game. Every athlete will participate in training sessions that expand on the principles of hitting, catching, throwing, base-running and more. Participants will be designated into training groups for specialized coaching based on age and skill level as assessed by Rangers Youth Academy coaches and staff.

Athletes will have the chance to learn from several hand-selected coaches, many of whom have seen success on the baseball diamond, from playing on Division I teams in college to Major League tryouts.

Registration for Fall Training will remain open throughout the session. The 2021 session began Monday, Sept. 13 and will continue through Thursday, Oct. 14.

To register your child for Texas Rangers Youth Academy Fall Baseball and Softball Programming, visit

Whataburger Rising Star Christian Lopez

Every year the Texas Rangers Youth Academy partners with Whataburger for the Whataburger Rising Stars Program, highlighting exceptional moments from the Rangers RBI season. This summer, nine athletes were recognized for sportsmanship, on-field performance, academic excellence, and displays of perseverance and dedication.

Rangers RBI centerfielder Christian Lopez was named a Whataburger Rising Star for being a standout member on the Vikings roster this summer.

“I am very blessed and thankful for being picked as the Whataburger Rising Star,” he said. “This award means a lot to me. It reminds me that hard works pays off and shows me I am heading in the right direction.”

The first-year Academy athlete was nominated by his head coach for his positive attitude on and off the field. When called upon, Christian was ready to play anywhere and did so with a smile on his face.

“I give it all I have every time I step in between those lines,” he said. “Off the field, I always have a smile on my face.”

Lopez was also praised for his incredible work in the classroom and for displaying great leadership in the dugout.

“It’s very important to be well rounded…Working hard builds character and helps us learn how to problem solve when facing challenges,” he added.

Christian is joined by eight other 2021 Whataburger Rising Stars who displayed incredible work on and off the field, including Rafael Carbajal, Giovanca Frias, Angelyna Grisham, Joseph Jones, Hannah Pacheco, Josue Pina, Briana Rodriguez and William Terry.