Olympic gold and silver medalist Jennie Finch wore a red, white and blue Team USA jersey as she spent several minutes demonstrating her rapid softball pitch for the nearly 150 girls gathered around her Saturday at Riverview Park Activities Center.
They sat in a horseshoe wearing white T-shirts with a pink Jennie Finch logo taking in the many lessons Finch planned to teach them at her two-day softball camp.
“My dream was to be in the major leagues,” Finch told the group, moments before the pitching demonstration. “I wanted to be a (Los Angeles) Dodger.”
She continued to tell them how her dream was altered once she realized that girls did not play major league baseball. But as an adult and the top softball player in the nation, she’s gotten to pitch to some Dodgers through her job as co-host of This Week in Baseball.
“You never know where this sport will take you,” she told them.
Softball took Finch all the way through college to the Olympics. Twice. The first time she won gold. The second, silver. Saturday, campers got to hold the gold medal while they took pictures with Finch.
“That gold medal’s really heavy,” said 8-year-old Savannah Koester, who came with her mom and teammate Taylor Perry, 8, both from Summerville, S.C.
Finch met her husband, former major league pitcher Casey Daigle, through baseball. They are expecting their third child in January.
Finch said the camps – she presents about 10 each year across the country – are her way of giving back to a sport that has given her so much.
While many of their parents watched, campers learned fundamental pitching, catching and hitting techniques, interspersed with encouraging words from Finch. Each camper had the opportunity to have a picture taken with her.
Campers came from North Carolina, South Carolina and even West Virginia, said Rick Meyer, the director of North Augusta Parks, Recreation and Leisure Services.
Kylie Reid, 10, came from Lenore, N.C., to participate. She said she had been looking forward to the camp for a “very long time.”
Kylie is a pitcher and plays third base for her softball team in Lenore. She said she was enjoying learning softball techniques.
But her favorite part, of course, was “seeing Jennie,” she said.
Finch’s hope is that the girls take away lessons that not only help them in softball, but in life. She hopes to instill values like overcoming adversity and failure, and the value of hard work and sacrifice.
“I hope they’re just encouraged,” she said. “They’re learning from women that we’ve brought in (friends and fellow champion softball players Andrea Duran and Toni Mascarenas). We’ve played the game at all different levels. We’ve lived our dream playing it and now it’s their turn to go accomplish great things.”