OKLAHOMA CITY -- Arguably the most recognized softball player in the World, Jennie Finch (La Mirada, Calif.) will hang up her Red, White and Blue uniform as she announced her retirement from USA Softball effective after the 2010 KFC World Cup of Softball presented by Six Flags, announced today by the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America. During her 10 year career with USA Softball, Finch has emerged as an icon bringing recognition to the sport on levels transcending the diamond.
"I feel an outpouring of gratitude for so much and for so many that it's really hard to put into words. Playing USA Softball has been more to me than I ever imagined possible. I could never have dreamed what an amazing ride this has been," said Finch. "I have been honored with so many amazing opportunities and I have to credit so many people; from the women before me to everyone at USA Softball to the fans and everyone involved in the sport who have made this such a special part of my life."
Finch entered the USA Softball National Team program in 2001 at the Pan American Qualifier. She has been on the National Team every year since then and in 2004 earned an Olympic Gold Medal in Athens and in 2008 an Olympic Silver Medal in Beijing.
"To be a little girl, wearing USA stuff, watching the Olympics and then to grow older and to compete alongside the women you have admired is unbelievable. It's so surreal that I was able to play with my role models in Leah (O'Brien-Amico), Lisa (Fernandez) and Laura (Berg.)," said Finch. "There is so much history, pride and tradition with USA Softball and I feel extremely blessed to be a part of it for the last 10 years. It has taken me places I have never dreamt of and given me relationships that go way beyond the softball field. I am thankful to my teammates, coaches, USA Softball, sponsors, my friends and family who have allowed me to not only create my dreams but to live them."
Along with her Olympic medals, the 6'1" pitcher is a three-time World Cup Champion, three time World Champion and a two-time Pan American Champion. She spent most of her time in the circle, but recently has emerged at the plate and defensively at first base. Her most recent Championship win in the circle was at the 2009 Japan Cup where she threw a one-hitter against 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist Japan as well as hit a two-run double to lead the USA to a 2-0 defeat over Japan. In 2009, Finch was also named the USA Softball Player of the Year.
"Jennie has meant so much to the sport and the growth of it. She has brought it to a whole new level of recognition as a worldwide sport. She has been instrumental in growing the sport both on the fielder as a pitcher, player and hitter but also as a person," said ASA Executive Director Ron Radigonda. "She is one who has never turned down an autograph or photo requests and truly appreciates her fans. She is as fan friendly as anyone out there. She has a respect for the young athletes who aspire to be her because she was that young girl at one time. I know she will continue to do what she can to help grow the sport and we at ASA appreciate all the time she spent with USA Softball. She will always be a great person in the sport of softball but more importantly a good person."
Finch came on the international scene in after a stellar career at the University of Arizona. She set the NCAA record for consecutive wins with 60 and was a two-time Honda Award winner for Nation's top softball player. Outside of softball she was named one of People's Most Beautiful people in 2004, was a member of The Celebrity Apprentice cast in 2008 and most recently she earned recognition for becoming the first female to hit a home run at the MLB Legends and Celebrities Softball Game.
"It's a sad day for the sport of softball," said the only four-time softball Olympian Laura Berg. "Softball is losing one of its greatest icons with the retirement of Finch. She has always been and always will be a great model for kids. She has been an amazing ambassador for the sport in the U.S. and globally. I'm honored to call her my teammate and friend."
At age 29, Finch has played on several USA Softball rosters, being a rookie at age 19 but now a decorated veteran. During this time, she has touched the lives of many former and current teammates who will forever remember the athlete and most importantly person she is.
"Being able to see the sport grow so much in the past 10 years is such an honor. It's incredible how much it has grown not only in the United States but also internationally. Hopefully I will continue to be involved with the development of the sport in some way just not in uniform. USA Softball will always be part of me and I plan to work in proving more opportunities in the future."