As a first time Olympian, American softball pitcher Jennie Finch has only one goal in mind when she lands in Athens, Greece, for this summer's Olympic games. That is to help the United States softball team successfully defend its gold medal.
Jennie Finch will be Team USA's number two starting pitcher as the American women look for their third softball gold medal in as many Olympics.
Before landing a spot on the United States Olympic team, she led the University of Arizona to the 2001 U.S. collegiate national championship as a junior, finishing the year with a record of 32 wins and no losses. That set a U.S. record for softball victories in an undefeated collegiate season.
She ended her college career with 119 wins and only 16 losses, including six perfect games among her 13 no-hitters, a 0.15 earned run average and 784 strikeouts. Finch also won a record 60 consecutive games stretching over three seasons at Arizona. While there, she played under the man who is now head coach of Team USA, Mike Candrea.
During her senior season, Finch posted a record of 34-6 with a .97 earned run average, recording 366 strikeouts. With that performance, she was a finalist for the ESPY Collegiate Athlete of the Year award.
Playing for the national team, the 23-year-old right-hander helped the United States win the 2002 World softball championship, going 2-0 with a 1.17 earned run average and striking out 12 batters in 12 innings. She was also part of the gold medal-winning United States team at the 2003 Pan American Games.
Off the field, Finch is just as busy. She was a television commentator during the 2003 Women's College softball World Series.
Finch can also be seen filing reports as a correspondent for Major League Baseball's "This Week in Baseball" television program. She also pitches to major league hitters such as Barry Bonds on the show. In February 2004, she took the mound during the Pepsi All-Star softball game and struck out Major League Baseball hitters Albert Pujols, Mike Piazza, and Marcus and Brian Giles.
Finch can throw 112 kilometers (70 miles) per hour. Because of the shorter distance from the softball pitcher's mound to home plate, it is equivalent to a baseball pitcher throwing 148 kilometers (92 miles) per hour.
Some male players will not step in the batter's box, but those who do find out how good Jennie Finch's fastball is.
"I don't think they realize how talented softball players are, and I don't know if TV does us justice, and I think they come out with their male egos, and it's kind of fun for them to think, 'alright, I can hit this. A girl can't throw that fast,'" says Ms. Finch. "And sure enough I've been pretty successful against them. So, I think once they see it in person and they get in the batter's box against us, it gives them a new outlook."
Finch is also involved with the Cal Ripken Senior Foundation, where she conducts clinics to teach young girls the fundamentals of the game. She hopes to help mold the next generation of softball players.
Heading into her first Olympics, Jennie Finch is excited to be part of a team that includes Olympic gold medalists Lisa Fernandez and Lori Harrigan. She is also grateful for the advice they have given her and other newcomers to the team.
"It's truly a great honor to be able to share that, share the field with them and just experience what USA Softball is all about," she adds. "They've done a great job of really teaching us the tradition of USA Softball and preparing us to go into Athens and continue the tradition."
After the Olympics, Jennie Finch will marry Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Casey Daigle. In addition to a gold wedding ring, she also hopes she will have a gold medal.