USA Softball has won 4 Olympic medals (3 gold, 1 silver) and numerous world and tournament titles, but it is great althletes like Lisa Fernandez and Leah O’Brien-Amico that make the sport a joy to watch.
Now, softball will say goodbye to another legend, Jennie Finch.
Not yet 30, the beloved pitcher will officially retire after the Chicago Bandits' final game, August 22, and effectively conclude an illustrious 10-year career.
Team USA launched a nation-wide tour in 2008 during which they faced several collegiate teams. I was fortunate enough to attend the face-off against the Michigan Wolverines in Anne Arbor. Though Cat Osterman pitched most of the game, they brought Jennie Finch in for the last few innings.
Speaking from experience, watching Jennie Finch was one of the highlights of watching Team USA battle Michigan. She pitches so effortlessly and has so much fun playing the sport.
Finch played at the University of Arizona from 1999 – 2002, where she and her fellow Wildcats brought home the National Championship in 2001.
Finch smashed two previous NCAA records, going 32-0 her junior season and later rattling off 60 consecutive wins during her final two seasons.
As a USA Softball player, Finch has gone 36-2, with an ERA of 0.42 and almost 400 strikeouts. She has helped Team USA win gold in 2004, silver in 2008, and many World Championships.
Finch has also garnered attention off the field as a swimwear model for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, a contestant on the The Celebrity Apprentice, and the TV host of This Week in Baseball.
Jennie Finch has changed the sport as we know it. She wasn't afraid to be prim and proper despite the common the notion that, at its core, Softball is all about getting dirty and acting like the boys. The idea of a "girly" softball player just didn't exist before Jennie Finch, and this helped introduce the sport to more girls, even those who liked wearing ribbons in their hair.
She introduced headbands, ribbons, nail polish, and glitter back to the sport of softball. She even won a contest in 2010 in an online ESPN poll over Anna Kournikova: the most attractive female athlete.
After the game in Ann Arbor, we got to meet Team USA. Finch is one of the most humble and sweetest people I have ever met. Her line was one of the longest lines to get her autograph, but she made it a point to say hi and smile to every fan.
No doubt will Jennie Finch be missed. Hopefully, she will not stray too far and become a coach or stay involved in softball somehow.