Jennie Lynn Finch (born September 3, 1980) is an American, former collegiate All-American, right-handed hitting softball pitcher and first-baseman originally from La Mirada, California. She pitched for the Arizona Wildcats, the USA national softball team and the Chicago Bandits. Finch won the 2001 Women’s College World Series and helped lead Team USA to the gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics and a silver medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Time magazine described her as the most famous softball player in history. In 2010, Finch retired from softball to focus on her family. In August 2011 she started work as a color analyst for ESPN doing National Pro Fastpitch and college softball games.
Jennie Finch interviewed on The Fastpitch TV Show
Produced By Gary Leland
Olympian Jennie Finch Answers My Ten Questions Written By Gary Leland
Q. How old were you when you started playing softball?
A. I was 5 years old. I have two older brothers who both played baseball and for me I wanted to be like them, so when I turned 5 my parents signed me up for tee ball and it was softball at the time. Unlike a lot of others I started out with softball. I fell in love with it and have been playing ever since.
Q. Was there anyone special in your life that helped you become a great player?
A. I have to give credit to my dad. He was my backbone, he spent all of the time on the bucket catching me, and he developed the Finch Windmill, the shoulder exerciser I have been on since I was 12 years old, so I have to give him a lot of credit. He had a catchers mitt on one hand and a radar gun in the other and he pushed me all the way through. He believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, he made me practice when I didn’t want to practice and I’m so grateful. As hard and tough as he was, it never crossed the line to the point where I wasn’t into the game or didn’t like the game because of it. It was that fine balance of pushing, motivating, and driving me, but never did it affect my love of the game. I’m so grateful for him knowing where that line was, even though when I was that age I didn’t think he knew where that line was. Looking back now, he knew how far to push and he knew there was more in me and he knew how to get it out of me.
Q.How did you get ready for a game?
A. I’m an athlete who likes to stick with her routines. Basically just be consistent, lay low, do the same thing I did every single day. For me the preparation happened the week, the months, the year prior to, so when I did get that uniform on, it’s done, it’s go time, it’s game time. That, as an athlete, is where the confidence comes from, is that preparation; the blood, the sweat, and the tears, the hard work that you put in prior to putting that uniform on. When you get that uniform on, you’re confident, you’re ready to compete and trust what you have done and go out there and put your best foot forward.
Q. What do you like to do when you are not involved with softball?
A. I have 3 amazing, crazy little kids and I adore every second I get to spend with them. We live on a ranch and we just got cattle, there is always something going on out in the country. We love to go fishing. I love being outside and being active, and really with them anything is good.
Q. What factors do you feel have influenced you the most to become the player and you are today?
A. So many factors! Hard work, dedication, many, many sacrifices, and that was one of my biggest reasons for writing my book, “Throw Like A Girl”, was because everyone sees the trophies, the medals, they see all of the lime light stuff. They don’t see the blood, sweat, and tears, the heartache, the disappointments, the losses, the failure, that I had to experience and go through to help shape and build the athlete and the character that I was. Going through those hard times made me stronger.
Q. Do you have any routines are superstitions that you implement regularly?
A. Where do I begin, I’m a pitcher! Yeah, for me I like to recite Philippians 4:13 before every pitch, that started my junior year of college. I put my uniform on the same way. My roommate, Toni Mascarenas, and I would spray our uniforms with perfume before we left for the game. I had a spot for my bag, my glove, at Arizona it was the end of the dugout and that was my spot, and I wanted it to be in the same spot every time. You learn who has the superstitions, who has the routines and you kind of follow those. You ride them until you have to switch it up, then you have a new one.
Q. What is your favorite softball memory?
A. How do you pick one? So many, winning a National Championship with the University of Arizona. We had 8 seniors that year, and to send them out with a championship was such a thrill. Then playing for the national team, nothing greater than wearing USA across your chest competing for your country. At the top would be winning gold in Athens with Lisa Fernandez, Laura Berg, Lori Harrigan, Leah O’Brian-Amico, who I looked up to. I was in their autograph line 8 years prior to. To be able to play with the women I looked up to was such a thrill for me, and to do it in Athens, Greece, where it all started was great.
Q. How much value do you place on mental training? Do you have any advice for others in this area?
A. The mind is your most powerful tool. Young athletes think it’s their hands, their legs, all of these things, but it all starts with the mind. You have to believe. If you think you are going to fail, you are going to fail, so it’s a matter of fighting that negative voice within you. I played for 24 years and still to this day I still have this doubter, this negative voice within my head and you have to battle it, you have to knock it down as soon as it comes in. You have to trust your hard work, your preparation, and go for it. I think for me to be mentally tough, it took for me to work and train and build that preparation because that was my foundation. I knew that I was ready and I had prepared in every way that I possibly could, so when I had that uniform on, I was ready. Ultimately I could live with the outcome because I gave everything I had and I think that is where you want to be. It starts with the preparation and building off of that, then you become confident. There will be times where it’s like, “whose right arm is this”, but you just have to ride it. Like Coach Candrea says, don’t get too high and don’t get too low. This game will take you through the highs and lows if you let it, but it’s a game of consistency and average and it’s a matter of plugging away.
Q. What is the greatest obstacle you have had to overcome in your playing and/or coaching career?
A. I would say staying mentally tough. I think every single day we can give in with our bodies and our minds or we can fight against it and continually strive to be better. It’s a matter of every day turning that good to great. We can have a good day or have a great day and that’s our decision. Especially with three kids now there are some challenging days, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s about controlling what you can control and being the best you. That’s one of my favorite sayings. I just heard the other day “your greatest competition is in the mirror” and that’s so true. It’s how far are you willing to push, how far are you willing to go, and how good do you really want to be.
Q. If you could do anything else in the world as a profession, what would it be and why?
A. I would love to work at a zoo, I love animals so just to be around animals. But, you know I am so blessed I don’t think that I would trade it. This life has been more than I possibly could imagine and by the Grace of God, it’s been such a thrill so I’m blessed, extremely blessed. With my family now, I get to experience the same memories I share with my parents now with them. It’s a good life that’s for sure.
Finch was born in La Mirada, California. Finch has two older brothers, Shane and Landon. She began playing softball at age five and pitching at age eight. Her father was her first pitching coach. Growing up, Finch was a bat girl for the University of California, Los Angeles. At La Mirada High School, Finch lettered four times in softball and twice each in basketball and volleyball. As a senior, she was the captain of all three sports. As a sophomore, she was an All-California Interscholastic Federation Division II choice in softball and All-Suburban League selection.
University of Arizona
Finch began her career by achieving a career high in doubles and throwing her first career no-hitter during the NCAA tournament on May 21, 1999 vs. the Texas State Bobcats. Though they made the World Series, Finch and the Wildcats were eventually eliminated by the DePaul Blue Demons on May 29
For her sophomore year, Finch was named a 2000 NFCA First Team All-American and First Team All-Pac 10. She also threw 3 no-hitters and led the Wildcats in home runs and slugging percentage and achieved a career best in hits and batting average. Finch began the year with a 21 consecutive game win streak; in a 10–2 run-rule over the Southern Miss Golden Eagles on February 6 to a shutout win over Cal State Northridge Matadors on April 13. After suffering her only losses in back-to-back games, Finch finished the year 8–0 starting a new streak with an April 29 victory vs. the Oregon Ducks that would span the next two seasons. Finch’s 29th win, a World Series victory over the No. 1 seeded Washington Huskies, began a 35 scoreless inning streak, after allowing runs in the fourth inning she shutout the team the rest of the way for a 4–2 margin on May 27.
As a junior in 2001, Finch was again named First Team for the NCAA and the conference, adding the Pitcher of The Year award. She would also hoist the Honda Sports Award for Softball Player of The Year. Finch’s season ERA, wins and shutouts were and still do rank top 10 for the school. Along with a no-hitter and career highs in WHIP and RBIs, Finch opened the season with 31 consecutive scoreless innings spanning 6 wins that combined with the innings from her last game in 2000, was a career best 35 before being snapped in the second inning by a leadoff home run vs. McNeese State Cowgirls on February 24. On March 30, Finch hit two home runs and a double in an 11–1 romp of the Oregon Ducks to drive in a career best 9 RBIs, which tied her third all-time in the NCAA for a single game.
Finch and the Wildcats were the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and made it to the World Series for a third straight year with Finch on the mound. She recorded victories over the California Golden Bears and the Oklahoma Sooners to reach the finals. In a 1–0 shutout of the UCLA Bruins, Finch set an NCAA record with a perfect season capped with the National Championship. Finch also had a hit in the game and was named MVP for the series. The victory extended her win streak to 40 consecutive games along with the 8 to end the 2000 season.
For a final season, Finch was named 2002 First Team for the NCAA and the Pac 10 conference as well as Pitcher of The Year and Honda Player of The Year. Finch tossed 3 no-hitters and broke the season strikeouts record, while her wins and shutouts were and remain top-10 school records. Beginning on February 9 vs. the Cal State Fullerton Titans, Finch matched her own record of 35 consecutive scoreless innings that was broken in a 13–1 mercy win over the Northern Iowa Panthers on February 23.
Finch set several records in single games beginning with a new NCAA record by winning her 51st consecutive game. A near-capacity crowd filled Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium and chants of “Jennie” echoed throughout the crowd in the 6–0 victory over Cal State Northridge. Finch said, “It’s significant and it’s nice. But it doesn’t even come close to the team goal of winning a national championship.” For one of her no-hitters, Finch posted her 100th career victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on March 14. Later on March 24, she struck out 15 ULL Ragin’ Cajuns for a career best in regulation; the Wildcats won, 7–2. On April 17, Finch won a 1–0 shutout in 9-innings and struck out 19 Oklahoma Sooners to tie a then school record. The Wildcat then beat the UCLA Bruins by one run on April 6 to start the year 20–0 and set an NCAA record with 60 straight wins dating back to the 2000 season, as Finch would lose her next decision. To open a return trip to the WCWS as defending champion, Finch shutout the Nebraska Cornhuskers and ended the game with her 1,000th career strikeout. In the semifinals of the World Series, Finch hit her 50th career home run off Leslie Malerich to score the winning run and help herself beat the FSU Seminoles in 11 innings. The Wildcats suffered a 6–0 loss in the championship to the California Golden Bears.
Finch left the program the career leader in strikeouts, shutouts, innings pitched and tied for no-hitters (8), while ranking in the top-10 in most other pitching categories. She also was top-10 in home runs, RBIs and walks; she remains top-10 in several pitching and the walks all-time lists. She currently is 7th in winning percentage (0.881%) for a career in the NCAA.
Her jersey number 27 (the date of her parents’ first date) was retired by the University of Arizona in a pre-game ceremony at Hillenbrand Stadium on May 9, 2003.
Finch had a 2–0 win–loss record in the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics, striking out 13 batters in eight innings while giving up only one hit, one walk and no runs. Her pitching helped lead the American team to the gold medal.
The U.S.A. team started its bid for a fourth straight gold medal at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing with Finch pitching four no-hit innings in an 11–0 victory over Venezuela. Finch then pitched 5 shutout innings in a 7–0 victory over Chinese Taipei and two more shut out innings in a 9–0 victory over China. However, the U.S. lost 3–1 to Japan in the final game and came home with a silver medal. After the loss, Finch said, “I feel like we let USA softball down. Many women have worn this uniform, and accepted nothing but gold.” Along with baseball, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided in 2005 to drop softball from the Olympics, making 2008 possibly the last time the sport is played in the Olympics. A crusader for softball’s reinstatement for the 2016 Olympics, Finch said “It deserves to be an Olympic sport.” After the final game, Finch said “Over 140 countries play this game. … you don’t have to be six-four. You don’t have to be 200 pounds. We have all different shapes and sizes. The sport tests so many athletic abilities, from hand-eye coordination, to speed, to agility, to quickness. We’re finally at the pinnacle, we’ve finally been established. Please don’t take this away.”
National Pro Fastpitch
Finch pitched for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) softball league. She was named NPF’s Co-Pitcher of the Year in 2005, sharing the award with teammate Lauren Bay. She also threw her first career no-hitter in a win over the Stratford Brakettes that same year. On May 29, 2007, in a 1-0 12-inning loss to the Rockford Thunder, Finch struck out 17 and combined with Cat Osterman for a total of 41 strikeouts to set a single game record for the combined total. Finch holds the league’s season ERA crown, which she set that same year. She pitched a perfect game for the Bandits in 2009 against the Philadelphia Force and another perfect game on July 9, 2010 against the Akron Racers. That year, Finch was named All-NPF. The Chicago Bandits played their home games in Elgin, Illinois, where Finch has many fond memories.