Wild Kick-Off Celebration feat. Jennie Finch

Wild Kick-Off Celebration feat. Jennie Finch

Article from the https://thesouthern.com 


"MARION — It was a Wild night at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center on Thursday as the Canadian Wild softball team introduced itself to Southern Illinois.

More than 1,000 fans crammed the lobby, purchasing t-shirts and other souvenirs before retiring to the auditorium to meet the team and listen to Jenny Finch, one of history's most celebrated women's fast pitch players.

Finch began playing at age five. She earned a scholarship to the University of Arizona where she went 32-0 in the circle, leading the Wildcats to the 2001 national championship. The California native played on the 2004 United States Olympic gold medal team and the 2008 silver medal team.

She retired from softball in 2010 after playing professionally for the Chicago Bandits.

Finch is still an enthusiastic ambassador for the game.

"I've heard it's baseball with adrenaline," she said. "Nothing against baseball, but it's two hours usually. It's intense. There are girls who can run to first base in 2.6 seconds. It's quick. It's action-packed. It's exciting. I think that's why viewers are tuning in."

But, her presentation to the fans, especially the young female athletes in attendance was bigger than just softball.

"I'm here to celebrate the National Pro Fastpitch League and the Canadian Wild being a part of the league and building up to their inaugural season," Finch said. "I couldn't be more thrilled to see where pro fastpitch is going. My message tonight is just going to be about my career and life lessons I learned and just the thrill and excitement of the sport that I love.

"My motto is dream and believe. I feel you have to have dreams and you have to believe in yourself to go after those dreams. I'm so thankful that I was able to dream big. I looked up to the Los Angeles Dodgers growing up, now these young female athletes they're able to have female role models, they've been there, they've done that and that's what it's all about. It's about helping grow and build the next generation, and it's so much bigger than a game. It's those life lessons that I've learned."

One of the lessons she learned is that there is power in athletic accomplishment.

"I would always win the softball throw at school," Finch said. "That's when I would get the guys' attention because I could throw harder and further than most of the guys. Then it was like, 'Wait a minute, my body is a tool and what a tool it is.' It's exciting to see how far we've come.

"As I got older I started looking up to college softball players and then softball became part of the Olympics in 1996, that's kind of when I really started following Lisa Fernandez and Dot Richardson and idolizing them. I'm so thankful for the impact they've had. They broke down the barriers to create the opportunities I had. That's what it's all about, making mountains move for the next generation."

She said America has taken notice of the accomplishments of female athletes. She pointed to the crowds flocking to the College Softball World Series in Oklahoma City. She pointed to the number of college softball games on television.

"Fans are watching," Finch said. "That's the best part about it. Oklahoma City, every year, that's the place to be."

And, based on the crowd packing Marion's civic center on a snowy February night, Finch believes the Canadian Wild will have a real impact on the region.

"There is an excitement in the air for it," she said. "At the grassroots level this is a really popular area for fast pitch softball. Playing at the University of Arizona, that's when I realized the impact I had because I played softball. I know the Canadian Wild will make an impact in this community."

The Wild's home opener is June 6."

Article by Les Winkeler with theSouthern.com