Once coined the most famous softball player of all time by Time Magazine, United States Olympian Jennie Finch stopped out at Santander Stadium on Wednesday night to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and sign autographs for more than two hours on South Central PA Softball Night at the ballclub. Finch, who won a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics and silver medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics, also chatted before the game with the media in the press box for about 10 minutes. Below, in Q&A format, is the what Finch had to say during the media session.
Q: How often do you do this, appearances with baseball clubs:
A: “Um, I’ve done a couple. This is my first this season. But it’s always great to be back in the ballpark, especially in the northeast because the buzz is crazy as you can see by the line outside. Lots of softballers up here. Just excited to combine baseball and softball and celebrate our game along with baseball as well.”
Q: Where do you call home these days?
A: “We live Louisiana.”
Q: I know you have the academy in New Jersey. Are you pretty familiar with this area?
A: “No. I’m not. I wanna say we played here in the professional league. It was a Pennsylvania team. Can anybody help me out?”
Fox 43’s Bill Toth mentions “You were here at the York City Ice Arena a few years ago.”
Jennie: “What was I doing?”
Toth: “Signing autographs. 2009 or 2010 somewhere in there.”
Jennie: “There was a professional team in Pennsylvania. You’ll have to Google it.”
Q: Could you just talk a little bit on accepting becoming famous and embracing the opportunity to be a role model?
A: “I just feel extremely blessed to be able to play softball and travel the world to get my education and beyond. My husband playing this game. Talking to the driver up here I was saying ‘Never in a million years did I think I’d get paid to go to a baseball game.’ This is crazy, wild and just so exciting. Now young girls can basically tune in and watch college softball on TV week in and week out. Now there’s a professional league and so much opportunity within our game. I’m extremely blessed. I know there were women before me who didn’t have this opportunity. So I always try to capitalize on anything and try to help bring it back to the game and grow the sport of fast-pitch softball. And just encourage young females to get involved and stay active and stay physically fit even beyond their youth.”
Q: How much have you seen it grow in the last 10 years?
A: “It’s been wild to see the opportunity within the game. ESPN continuest o be putting more games on TV. It’s because people are tuning in. People care about our game and our sport. It’s so exciting to see the college game. Internationally we’re not where we hoped to be. Our hopes right now for 2020 is to get softball back in the Olympics there and go after that.”
Q: Have you done for women’s softball as Mia Hamm has done for women’s soccer?
A: “I don’t know if I can put my name up there with Mia Hamm. Like I said ‘i’m blessed to be able to have had the opportunities that I’ve had. It’s pretty crazy to think I’m a mom of three and 33-years-old and I’m still able to promote our game and encourage the youth of tomorrow to go after their dreams because I was once in their shoes. I was dreaming about being a professional baseball player. I didn’t quite make it that far but I got a scouting report in the big leagues. That was pretty cool. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s been pretty amazing to be able to represent my country.”
Q: On top of being a mom, how else do you spend your days? Are you running camps often?
A: “I do. I run my own softball camp. We do about 10 a year across the country. And then I do a lot of individual camps as well just me flying out. And doing a lot of speaking engagements at charity events and functions. Normally about five to six days a week I’m at home being a mom of three. There’s usually food on the floor and food in my face. All the good stuff. So I’m blessed to be able to these things to balance it. I have a supportive husband who will still kind of let me travel a little bit.”
Q: How old are your kids?
A: “My oldest is eight. My middle one is three and my youngest is a year-and-a-half.”
Q: There are tons of girls out there. How does that feel knowing so many girls came out?
A: “Just absolutely amazing. I remember in 1996 watching the Olympic team play and waiting in line for their autograph. And now be able to come to a baseball park just to see a line of a thousand people out there waiting to get through the gates, it’s exciting. And it’s proving how far we’ve come in the sport and there are young women out there involved in sports. Hopefully I can be a small part of that and encourage them on their journey.”
Q: 32-0 at Arizona. What was it like in a perfect season?
A: “That season was magical. I was just trying to go out there and do my job on the mound. A good offense and a good defense behind me. That’s what that means. That was pretty amazing. To send those eight seniors we had that year to send them out with a championship, there was a lot riding on that game, it’s pretty amazing to think back on what we were able to accomplish.”
Q: Is the jacket you’re wearing the one you wore at the Olympic Games?
A: “It was. Yeah, I pulled it out of the closet so I can support USA. This isn’t the good one unfortunately.”
Q: Do you think there should be a World Baseball Classic for softball?
A: “There are actually world championships and our Team USA is in Canada right now competing for the Worlds. That was kind of the Olympic Games before we were included in the Olympics. Now it’s gone back to that. It’s the one event every four years the entire world competes in. I’d love to see it grow. We had the World Cup Softball in Oklahoma City every single year. A lot of good things happening there. They’re adding on to the stadium and it’s going to be pretty impressive.”
Q: Just seeing what you did in the Celebrity All-Star Game last month, it looks like your arm is still in pretty good shape?
A: “I don’t know about that. Maybe I can strike out Adrian Peterson but I don’t know who else. I was good enough to get three pitches by him.”
Q: Not all the girls who are here tonight will get the chance to chat with you. What would you like to say to those up and coming softball girls who are looking up to you?
A: “Just to go after your dreams. Have goals. Surround yourself with positive people. There’s a lot of negativity out in the world. Just stay focused. You can ultimately do whatever. The sky is the limit. I’m a testament of that. Just stay true to yourself and shoot for your dreams and go for it.”
Q: Are those girls the reason you are coming out here today and doing all those camps?
A: “Absolutely. This game has given me so much and allowed me to do so much. But the ultimate thing is to be able to be a role model and be a positive influence to them and give them some encouragement along the way on their journey. I’m just blessed. And to be able to share that blessing is an ultimate blessing above all, for sure.”
Q: Outside of softball, what other memory do you hold in high regard from the Olympics?
A: “There were so many amazing moments. The athlete village was incredible. Being around athletes from all over the world. The Opening Ceremonies we didn’t go in 2004 so to be able to experience that in Beijing was quite the thrill. Being able to march in with Team USA. In 2004 we had a game the next day so our veterans decided we shouldn’t go (to the Opening Ceremonies). Then after going in 2008 we realized you’re standing on your feet for five or six hours then marching in. It was pretty awesome to be able to walk in that venue with Kobe Bryant to your left and the Williams sisters, just great.”