7-28-10 More on Jennie Finch

JENNIE FINCH FOLLOWUP

(Press release by USA Softball)
OKLAHOMA CITY – In Jennie Finch’s final game as a member of the USA Softball Women’s National Team, the Americans sent the icon out in fitting fashion as Team USA captured its fourth consecutive World Cup title at the 2010 KFC World Cup of Softball presented by Six Flags in Oklahoma City, Okla. Finch (La Mirada, Calif.), best known for her pitching, appeared at first base in the 5-1 victory over Japan, the 2010 ISF Women’s World Championship silver medalists.

Following the game, Finch left her cleats at home plate, with her husband Casey Daigle and son Ace by her side. Finch has been a member of the Women’s National Team for 10 years, helping the Red, White and Blue to an Olympic Gold Medal in 2004 and Silver Medal in 2008.

“I have had a career that has far surpassed anything that I could have ever imagined. Just thinking about everything that has happened, all I can say is ‘Wow.’ I’m incredibly blessed to have had all of these opportunities,” said Finch, a three-time ISF Women’s World Champion. “I am sad that this was the last time I’ll wear this uniform, something that means so much to me, but I’m so happy for the chance to wear it. I’m so happy that I could do what I love with these amazing women, who are not only my teammates but my best friends, and am so thankful for how they have touched my life. I’m not sure what comes next for me. I just know that softball will always be a part of my life.”

Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.), who had all of the team wear Finch’s signature glitter headband with the slogan “Dream and Believe” on the band, was perfect at the plate, going 3-for-3, scoring two runs and driving in one other to help Team USA to a fifth consecutive victory over Japan this season.

Team USA starter Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.) threw a complete game, allowing one run on four hits. Abbott struck out 10, moving her World Cup record total to 35.

“I don’t think Jennie will ever not be the face of softball,” Abbott said. “She carries it so well and she’s done more. I think that even though she’s retiring her on field skills, the limits are boundless for her. We should all expect the best from her. I think her impact on the game is going to jump up a level from here. Obviously, USA Softball wise, we’re going to need some people step up and hopefully some good young guns. Eileen Canney did a great job this week. It’s always fun to see that. Hopefully Cat (Osterman) will get healthy. I think it’s all up for grabs. Everyone is going to go out there and do the best that they can.” OKLAHOMA CITY – In Jennie Finch’s final game as a member of the USA Softball Women’s National Team, the Americans sent the icon out in fitting fashion as Team USA captured its fourth consecutive World Cup title at the 2010 KFC World Cup of Softball presented by Six Flags in Oklahoma City, Okla. Finch (La Mirada, Calif.), best known for her pitching, appeared at first base in the 5-1 victory over Japan, the 2010 ISF Women’s World Championship silver medalists.

Following the game, Finch left her cleats at home plate, with her husband Casey Daigle and son Ace by her side. Finch has been a member of the Women’s National Team for 10 years, helping the Red, White and Blue to an Olympic Gold Medal in 2004 and Silver Medal in 2008.

“I have had a career that has far surpassed anything that I could have ever imagined. Just thinking about everything that has happened, all I can say is ‘Wow.’ I’m incredibly blessed to have had all of these opportunities,” said Finch, a three-time ISF Women’s World Champion. “I am sad that this was the last time I’ll wear this uniform, something that means so much to me, but I’m so happy for the chance to wear it. I’m so happy that I could do what I love with these amazing women, who are not only my teammates but my best friends, and am so thankful for how they have touched my life. I’m not sure what comes next for me. I just know that softball will always be a part of my life.”

Natasha Watley (Irvine, Calif.), who had all of the team wear Finch’s signature glitter headband with the slogan “Dream and Believe” on the band, was perfect at the plate, going 3-for-3, scoring two runs and driving in one other to help Team USA to a fifth consecutive victory over Japan this season.

Team USA starter Monica Abbott (Salinas, Calif.) threw a complete game, allowing one run on four hits. Abbott struck out 10, moving her World Cup record total to 35.

“I don’t think Jennie will ever not be the face of softball,” Abbott said. “She carries it so well and she’s done more. I think that even though she’s retiring her on field skills, the limits are boundless for her. We should all expect the best from her. I think her impact on the game is going to jump up a level from here. Obviously, USA Softball wise, we’re going to need some people step up and hopefully some good young guns. Eileen Canney did a great job this week. It’s always fun to see that. Hopefully Cat (Osterman) will get healthy. I think it’s all up for grabs. Everyone is going to go out there and do the best that they can.”

AFTER THE CEREMONY: notes by Rayburn Hesse
After Team USA accepted the KFC World Cup trophy, and the very moving tributes to Jennie, she joined three reporters for her last USA press conference. I listened as Jennie gave her comments on the game, her career, her future life, then she turned to me for a final question.

After 15 years of watching Jennie grow as a player, as a woman, as an icon for our sport – the countless tournaments as a Cruiser, a Batbuster, a Wildcat, a Bandit and Olympian, and interviews on three continents – I had no more questions to ask.

I had already reported on what lay ahead – the final tournament with the Bandits, her plans for clinics – and at other times, I had written about her family, all of whom I have come to know – Doug and Beverly, her grandmother, her brothers, and especially Casey and Ace – not least her plans to spend time in their fabulous house in Tucson, where they have managed to stay about two weeks a year.

As Mike Candrea said to people on the infield,” it takes a really emotional moment to make Rayburn dewy-eyed” – and that moment came when Casey walked on the field. I had spotted him after he arrived – a long drive from Round Rock, Texas, to Oklahoma City, after getting permission from his ball club to leave – and, clutching a bouquet, Casey said Jennie had been told he might not make it to the ceremony. The look on her face when she finally saw him was priceless – and emotional for everyone.

Interesting guy; content to hang back throughout the whole ceremony – it was Jennie’s night. He hasn’t been around as much as either would want, and the softball people who know him realize how much these two mean to each other. Casey is a fun-loving outdoorsman – hunting, fishing are big tickets to Casey. I remember once going to their house in Tucson; Casey greeted me at the door with the head of a small deer he had shot on the property. Good conversationalist; unlike many athletes, he doesn’t only draw focus to his sport but to life in general, although he has strong opinions about the Olympics, NCAA, recruiting, the politics of baseball and softball. After we had spent several minutes talking, a friend asked me what we were discussing so intently. I plan to go to Sulphur LA for the NPF Championship. Casey gave quite a description of a favorite café, the Boiling Pot, then explained in detail how crawfish should be prepared. He delighted in the telling.

I have fond memories of their wedding, where they personally made everyone feel welcome. They joy was infectious.

Thoughtful observers listen as ASA-types predict another big star will emerge – and hope we can continue to have Jennie as the icon for our sport for years to come. I accompanied her to the US Senate four years ago where she testified on women-in-sports issues. Although other famous athletes were there, Jennie charmed the Committee – she was radiant – and six months pregnant.

Of all the qualities which make a star – athletic excellence, personality, charm and in Jennie’s case beauty – Jennie had something you can’t teach – presence. With the same ease that she charmed United States Senators, Jennie could be just as gracious, as kind, as approachable, to all the 8-year old Jennie wannabes.

Jennie also has great poise – in victory and defeat. She told me this week that her most profound memory of Hall of Fame stadium  is of winning the Women’s College World Series in 2001. It was an exuberant Jennie who answered our questions down in the press room. But, I also remember the 2002 WCWS when Jennie and her team saw their lead slip away, and Jennie could not fashion a final out to preserve a Wildcat victory. This time, after losing to Cal, Jennie came down to the press room, head held high, holding back any negative emotion, stoic in defeat, yet you knew this very sensitive girl was hurting deep inside. The questions about her performance were punishing but Jennie stayed on message. I remember another occasion when it would have been so easy for Jennie to feel sorry for herself – the finals of a Gold tournament. Jennie had been scheduled to pitch the final game, but the Batbusters needed her in the semi-final; Jennie pitched and split a finger. So, she was on the sidelines for the championship, cheering for her team, and not expressing any sorrow for her plight – a game she might have won.

I have a favorite tournament program from a 14U Nationals, which contained group photos of each team. Two players – Jennie and Brittney Sneed – were so much taller than their teammates.  I also have a photo of a rather chubby Jennie in early junior high school, demonstrating the Finch Windmill.

SPY has allowed me to watch numerous players from their highschool and travel ball days through college to Olympic and national team status – I recall the current Olympians on the 2010 national team —  in college and at the Olympics, but also when they played travel ball and showed the promise of greatness: Cat Osterman’s two Gold championships, Monica Abbott on the day she gained instant fame shutting out the powerful Gordon’s Panthers, Natasha Watley who had that same silky smoothness at short as a youngster, Jessica Mendoza battering fences in every travel ball meet, Caitlin Lowe with her jaw-dropping speed, Keira Goerl, under-appreciated her whole career but she won two World Series, Lauren Lappin who played every position for the Cruisers, super infielders Andrea Duran and Vicky Galindo, and so many more who have made these 15 years such a pleasure. I knew the players who were college and Olympic stars when this group burst on the national scene, and I know many of the players and future stars who are already filling out the ranks of college and national teams. The depth of our ever replenishing talent pool is endless.

Throughout it all, there was Jennie – a star whom I am proud to call my friend – a universally admired representative of our sport with whom we all will hopefully continue to associate.

RFH

One thought on “7-28-10 More on Jennie Finch

  1. Tom Bowles

    Rayburn, you are a lucky man to have such a “job”. I am supremely jealous of you. : ) I can’t think of anything I would love more than to do what you do. Well, I will just have to settle for reading your site and watching softball whenever I get the chance. Thanks for the reporting. It’s a great web site.

    Tom

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