Major League Baseball has named former Olympic Gold Medalist, Women's College World Series Champion and professional softball pitcher Jennie Finch as a Youth Softball Ambassador. Finch will support Major League Baseball'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 girl's baseball.
Finch is a two-time Summer Olympics medalist, leading the USA Softball Women's National Team to the gold and silver in 2004 and 2008, 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 Women's College World Series Championship in 2001. Finch also pitched for the Chicago Bandits in the National Pro Fastpitch 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 Tony Reagins, Senior Vice President of Youth Programs, Major League Baseball. "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 said: "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. 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's appointment is the latest in a string of efforts by MLB to increase softball participation. In June 2016, MLB announced its partnership with USA Softball, particularly focusing on the National Governing Body's support of "PLAY BALL," an initiative to encourage widespread participation in all forms of baseball and softball activities. MLB and USA Softball 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, Oklahoma, which is where USA Softball operates.
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).