Jennie Finch named Youth Softball Ambassador for Major League Baseball

OKLAHOMA CITY – Two-time Olympian and NCAA Women’s College World Series (WCWS) Champion Jennie Finch has been named Youth Softball Ambassador for Major League Baseball (MLB). Finch will support MLB’s Youth Programs with initiatives and strategies that are designed to grow softball at the amateur and youth levels. In addition to her duties as an ambassador of softball, she will also support an effort to promote girls baseball.  A tentative list of softball- and baseball-focused events at which she is scheduled to represent MLB include the “Trail Blazer” Girls Baseball Tournament, Softball Breakthrough Series, Church Softball Tournament, PLAY BALL Park as part of All-Star Week, Softball Elite Development Invitational, and the softball portion of RBI World Series.

“It is an honor to serve in this new role with Major League Baseball to grow the sport that has given so much to me and millions of girls and women throughout the country,” said Finch. “Together, we will promote youth participation at the grassroots level while also helping develop the skills of players ready for the next level.  This is a really special time for softball and I am thrilled to play a small part in this effort to increase opportunities to play the greatest game ever created.” 

Finch, the current host of USA Softball’s Softball 360 TV show, led the USA Softball Women’s National Team to the gold and silver at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games, respectively.  Finch graduated from the University of Arizona in 2002 after a record-breaking softball career, including a perfect junior season on the mound (32-0) and an NCAA WCWS Championship in 2001.  Finch also pitched for the Chicago Bandits in the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league from 2005 to 2010. She continues to host instructional softball camps throughout the country. 

“Jennie Finch is one of the most accomplished female athletes in history and we are thrilled she will be assisting us to grow the game of softball,” said MLB Senior Vice President of Youth Programs, Tony Reagins. “Increasing youth and amateur participation is a central goal for our department.  We know that Jennie’s passion, insight and talent will be invaluable to our efforts during this special moment for our sport.”

Finch’s appointment is the latest in a string of efforts by MLB to increase softball participation.  In June 2016, USA Softball began their partnership with MLB, particularly focusing on “PLAY BALL,” an initiative to encourage widespread participation in all forms of baseball and softball activities.  USA Softball and MLB also created the inaugural Softball Breakthrough Series (BTS) in 2016. Similar to Baseball BTS events, the Softball Breakthrough Series is designed to promote softball as a viable collegiate option for youth from underrepresented and underserved communities. The event is completely cost-free for participants, who are selected by invitation only.  The 2017 Softball Breakthrough Series will be held June 11-15 in Oklahoma City.

“We are excited and honored that MLB has named Jennie as the Youth Softball Ambassador,” said USA Softball Executive Director, Craig Cress. “Her accomplishments, both on and off the field, and her ability to inspire athletes will greatly enhance and support the initiative by MLB, USA Baseball, and USA Softball to grow our sports at all levels.”

For the past 28 years, the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program has provided young men and women with opportunities to play baseball and softball.  RBI currently reaches more than 230,000 boys and girls throughout the U.S. and in Canada, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Curaçao. Since 2006, young people have had the opportunity to receive free, year-round baseball and softball instruction, as well as other educational and baseball vocational services, through the MLB Youth Academy network. There are six operational MLB Youth Academies in the U.S. in Cincinnati (Ohio), Compton (California), Dallas (Texas), Houston (Texas), New Orleans (Louisiana), Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) and Washington, D.C.  There are three additional facilities under development in the Bronx (New York), Kansas City (Missouri) and San Francisco (California). 

PLAY BALL is a joint initiative between MLB, USA Baseball and USA Softball.  In addition to encouraging participation in both formal and casual baseball and softball activities, PLAY BALL aims to give kids the opportunity to enjoy the game in a fun environment by highlighting the many ways baseball and softball can be played and providing memorable experiences; introduce young people to the sport who otherwise may not have the chance to experience it; and offer a healthy and active lifestyle options where many of those opportunities are being offered less frequently.PlayBall.org is the PLAY BALL initiative’s online home and is accessible via MLB.com,USABaseball.com, USASoftball.com and other partner websites.  PlayBall.org features youth-oriented content, including baseball trivia and quizzes, and video highlights from MLB games, social media content, photos and a “PlayBall Near You” interactive map that locates local community leagues.  The site also features access to video podcasts and highlights from MLB Network’s new youth-focused show “Play Ball,” which features interviews and on-field demonstrations with top players throughout the League, including Nolan Arenado, Curtis Granderson, Matt Kemp, Francisco Lindor and Evan Longoria.  “Play Ball” airs on Saturdays at 10:00 a.m. ET.  PlayBall.org also links toUSABaseball.com, which provides players, parents and coaches with the information and resources to help with proper play and instruction, including education videos featuring Hall of Famer and MLB Network analyst John Smoltz, Chicago Cubs Manager Joe Maddon, and Kansas City Royals Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Dayton Moore, among others. Health and safety information, including through the Pitch Smart and Play Sun Smart programs, also is available. 

— Information and image courtesy of USA Softball