For most sports fans, Jennie Finch has literally been the face of softball.
One of the greatest and most decorated players to ever play the game, she is also the most recognizable. During her career she was featured in magazines like People, Time and Sports Illustrated. In addition, she also has appeared on numerous television shows such as “Celebrity Apprentice”, “The Real Housewives of Orange County” and “This Week in Baseball.”
On the field, she set numerous records while playing for Arizona from 1999-2002 while leading the Wildcats to the 2001 NCAA title. During her career she posted a record of 119-16, which included a 60-game win streak in a two-year span that is still unmatched to this day. In addition, she won the Honda Award as national player of the year as a junior and senior. She was a long-time member of the United States National Team and won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics and a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics.
|60||Jennie Finch, Arizona||I||2000-02|
|50||Rebecca Aase, Florida State||I||1991-93|
|43||Nicole Riley, Rhode Island Col.||III||2006-07|
|42||Lisa Fernandez, UCLA||I||1992-93|
|40||Kim Maguire, Bloomsburg||II||1991-93|
“It takes a pretty special person to make that happen (a 60-game streak),” said Mike Candrea, Finch’s head coach at Arizona and on the United States Olympic team. “But as to Jennie Finch being a great player — it’s more important that she was a great human being. She had values and character that she never compromised throughout her career. She became the face of softball and did it the right way, willing to care about others and share herself to help grow the sport.”
For Finch, who retired from the sport in 2010 after playing for 25 years, hearing her former coach describe her this way means more than all of the records and titles she accomplished in her career.
“Numbers will always come and go,” Finch said. “but the impression you make as a person will last forever. I was just incredibly blessed to be able to play a game that I loved at a school with such a great softball tradition like Arizona. It was a dream come true.”
The dream started when she was a little girl and her father and first pitching coach, Doug, introduced her to the game.
“I started playing softball when I was 5 and when I was 8 I started to pitch,” said Finch. “I was able to get the ball over the plate and somewhat hard so the coach kept me there. I really liked it though because you have so much control as the pitcher.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Finch’s college career started with her compiling a 24-8 record as a freshman with 179 strikeouts. As a sophomore, she went 29-2 with her last loss of the year coming against Arizona State in late April 2000. From that point on she would win 60 games in a row on the mound, a streak that covered her entire junior season in which she went 32-0 with 279 strikeouts, a 0.54 ERA and a national title. As a senior, the streak finally came to an end in a 6-5 loss to arch-rival – UCLA – on the Wildcats’ home field almost two years to the day of her last loss.
“First and foremost, I was a part of a great team during that time,” Finch said. “They were always behind me playing great defense and scoring runs on offense. Losing stinks, so the streak was something that was fun to be a part of. The thing is that in a streak like that, it’s not about the streak. It’s about the game you are about to play. You just focus on that one game and try to win it.”
After 1,028 strikeouts and 876 innings pitched, her senior season and college career came to an end with a loss to California in the championship game of the 2002 Women’s College World Series.
“What I remember the most is all of the blood, sweat and tears I shared with my teammates over the four years,” Finch said. “The entire community is so committed to the sport of softball because Arizona has such a great tradition. It was a magical four years.”
Finch has stayed busy in retirement, recently finishing a book entitled: Throw Like a Girl: Dream Big and Believe in Yourself. She also conducts camps and clinics all across the United States, while also serving on the athlete advisory board of ‘nPLAY which was established to tackle the epidemic of childhood obesity in America. Additionally, she serves as a commentator for ESPN for its softball coverage.
“It is awesome to see the growth of a sport I love so much,” Finch said. “I feel really blessed to have been a part of the growth of the sport that gives so many kids the opportunity to play. Everywhere you see baseball diamonds today, you see a softball diamond right next to it.”