Jennie Lynn Finch (born September 3, 1980), who occasionally uses her husband's surname Daigle, is a former American softball player who pitched for the USA national softball team and the Chicago Bandits. Finch helped lead Team USA to the gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics and a silver medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Time magazine described her as the most famous softball player in history. In 2010, Finch retired from softball to focus on her family. In August 2011 she started work as a color analyst for ESPN doing National Pro Fastpitch and college softball games.
- 2 College
- 3 2004 Olympics
- 4 2008 Olympics
- 5 National Pro Fastpitch
- 6 Media
- 7 Personal life
- 8 Retirement
- 9 Legacy
- 10 Career statistics
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Finch was born in Bellflower, California to Doug and Bev Finch, who moved to La Mirada, California when Finch was very young. Finch has two older brothers, Shane and Landon. She began playing softball at age five and pitching at age eight. Her father was her first pitching coach. Growing up, Finch was a bat girl for the University of California, Los Angeles. At La Mirada High School, Finch lettered four times in softball and twice each in basketball and volleyball. As a senior, she was the captain of all three sports. As a sophomore, she was an All-California Interscholastic Federation Division II choice in softball and All-Suburban League selection.
In 2002, Finch set a new National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) record by winning her 51st consecutive game. She ended up with 60 consecutive winsbreaking the previous record of 50 that was set by Florida State's Rebecca Aase in 1993. Finch's streak spanned nearly two seasons and included three straight wins in the 2001 Women's College World Series, where she won Most Outstanding Player honors. A near-capacity crowd filled Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium and chants of "Jennie" echoed throughout the crowd in the 6–0 victory over Cal State Northridge. Finch said, "It's significant and it's nice. But it doesn't even come close to the team goal of winning a national championship."
Finch recorded 24 wins in her freshman season; 29 in her sophomore season; 32 in her junior year, (with no losses, setting an NCAA record); and 34 in her senior season for a career total of 119 wins, 12th-most at the time. In that stretch, Finch struck out a total of 1,028 batters.
Finch had a 2–0 win–loss record in the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics, striking out 13 batters in eight innings while giving up only one hit, one walk and no runs. Her pitching helped lead the American team to the gold medal.
The U.S.A. team started its bid for a fourth straight gold medal at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing with Finch pitching four no-hit innings in an 11–0 victory over Venezuela. Finch then pitched 5 shutout innings in a 7–0 victory over Chinese Taipei and two more shut out innings in a 9-0 victory over China. However, the U.S. lost 3–1 to Japan in the final game and came home with a silver medal. After the loss, Finch said, "I feel like we let USA softball down. Many women have worn this uniform, and accepted nothing but gold." Along with baseball, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided in 2005 to drop softball from the Olympics, making 2008 possibly the last time the sport is played in the Olympics. A crusader for softball's reinstatement for the 2016 Olympics, Finch said "It deserves to be an Olympic sport." After the final game, Finch said "Over 140 countries play this game....you don't have to be six-four. You don't have to be 200 pounds. We have all different shapes and sizes. The sport tests so many athletic abilities, from hand-eye coordination, to speed, to agility, to quickness. We're finally at the pinnacle, we've finally been established. Please don't take this away."
Finch pitched for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) softball league. She was named NPF's Co-Pitcher of the Year in 2005, sharing the award with teammate Lauren Bay. She pitched a perfect game for the Bandits in 2009 against the Philadelphia Force and another perfect game on July 9, 2010 against the Akron Racers. The Chicago Bandits played their home games in Elgin, Illinois, where Finch has many fond memories.Finch signing autographs
In 2004, People magazine named Finch one of its "50 Most Beautiful People", the only female athlete in the list. "This is truly amazing to be recognized by People magazine for this honor," Finch said. "It is really special to be included among some of the most famous and beautiful people in the world. I still have a hard time believing that I was selected as part of this group."
This Week in Baseball signed Finch as a co-host. In a segment called the Jennie Challenge, Finch pitches to Major League Baseball players and often strikes them out.In softball, the mound is closer to home plate than baseball and Finch's pitches are the equivalent of a 98 mph pitch. "Some big-timers refuse to face her," Cal Ripken, Jr.says. "Many feel it could be embarrassing." In an interview with ESPN, Finch explained, "I was throwing them mostly rise balls and change-ups. They've never seen a pitch like that, you know? With the closer distance from the mound, I think it really surprises them how fast the pitch gets there. And especially with the rise – when they're used to that over-the-top release point – there is nothing else like it. The ball movement throws them off."
In the 2004 Pepsi All-Star Softball Game, Finch struck out Albert Pujols, Mike Piazza and Brian Giles. "I never touched a pitch," said Giles. "Her fastball was the fastest thing I've ever seen, from that distance. It rises and cuts at the same time."
In 2008, Finch was featured as a contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice where she selected International Breast Cancer Research Foundation as her charity. She was fired by Donald Trump in the fourth week of the season.
In 2011, Finch co-authored Throw Like a Girl: How to Dream Big and Believe in Yourself, with Ann Killion. The book is a collection of life lessons Jennie learned growing up playing sports. On November 6, 2011, just four and a half months after giving birth to son Diesel, Finch finished the New York Marathon with a time of 4:05:26, raising $30,000 for the New York Road Runners Youth Program.
Finch married then-Major League Baseball pitcher Casey Daigle on January 15, 2005. Daigle proposed to Finch on the softball field at the University of Arizona, her alma mater. According to Finch, "He blindfolded me and took me to the mound and said, 'You have been the queen of the diamond for four years. Now I want you to be the queen of my heart.'" They have two sons; Ace Shane, born on May 4, 2006and Diesel Dean, born on June 19, 2011. Finch welcomed her daughter Paisley Faye on January 12, 2013. Finch is an avid fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Finch is a Christian. Finch turned down offers to appear in magazines like Playboy because of her Christian faith. Finch has spoken about her faith saying, "It’s so important to find hope in [Jesus] and live for a higher purpose: to share about Him."
On July 20, 2010, Finch announced her retirement from softball to focus on her family. "I just feel like it gets harder and harder every year with Ace getting older and time away from my husband and even family events such as birthdays and friends' weddings and things that I've always just missed out on because of softball," Finch said in an interview with the Associated Press. Said Finch, "This whole career has been way more than I ever even imagined or dreamed. The opportunities that I'd be able to enjoy and appreciate and be a part of, it's been incredible." In her final start with the US National Team, Finch struck out 12 and only allowed three singles including two infield ones. She continued playing with the Chicago Bandits until the National Pro Fastpitch season ended in August.
Finch was the most dominant and recognizable softball pitcher of her era. Combined with her pitching skills, Finch's beauty and charm landed her a place in the mainstream to become a pop culture icon."She set the standard for softball in a new era of being able to be feminine and play this sport," U.S. outfielder Jessica Mendoza said. "Not that you have to be feminine to play this sport, but I see hundreds of thousands of little girls now with glitter headbands, hot pink bats, makeup....when I was growing up, it wasn't like that." According to Mike Candrea, her coach at Arizona and through two Olympics, "Jennie has transformed this sport, touched millions of young kids in many different ways - whether it's fashion, whether it's the way she plays the game - but through it all she's been very humble." A Chicago Tribune editorial commented, "She leaves with a spotless personal reputation, an intent to keep promoting softball, and the knowledge that she has inspired other girls and women who play for the love of the game."