Riverview Park plays host to thousands of softball players every year but may have reached a new height Saturday, via a visit from one of the sport’s most prominent players.
Jennie Finch, a pitcher and first baseman described by some as the most famous player in the sport’s history, is leading a two-day softball camp this weekend. The two-time Olympian and three-time All-American shared tips on the game and life in general, along with the opportunity to pick up autographs and souvenirs.
Finch, who is also seven months pregnant, encouraged her listeners to focus on the things that they can control, with effort and attitude being uppermost.
“Fill your brains with positive thoughts ... Give 100 percent,” she said. “Be the best you, and don’t compare yourself with others.”
Assisted by an assortment of CSRA-based collegiate players and coaches, she and her staff fielded questions and offered demonstrations of game basics, from stretches to body mechanics.
Melissa Mullins, head softball coach at Augusta State University, also offered tips for would-be collegiate players, ranging from athleticism, grades and work ethic to the proper use of YouTube in making recruitment videos for coaches.
“The reality of it is ... the majority of us aren’t going to make it as professional softball players, so we need to make sure that we have a degree, so you want to start that process off well by making good grades and good decisions in high school to set yourself up for success in college, so that you can get that degree and become those doctors, lawyers, mommies, wives, teachers – whatever it is that you’re pursuing and want to do – and you can do that with great success.”
Finch noted, “I know it’s a lot to think about, but we have eighth-graders being recruited now, so it’s never too early to start thinking about college.”
She pointed out that one of her staff members, former University of Arizona teammate Toni Mascarenas, has a niece who committed, as a freshman in high school, to a full-ride softball scholarship at Arizona.
Among the young listeners was North Augusta resident Elizabeth Jo Allen, 13, who said she is aiming to be a pro and noted that she has something in common with Finch. Both have had problems with illegal pitches.
“She worked through it, and I want to do that, too,” she added.
Finch is “really inspirational,” in the words of Caroline Crowder, 12. Among the day’s surprises, she said, was the fact that Finch is pregnant.
One of the camp staffers noted that Finch is seven months along, and is planning to take the next few months off to welcome her third child into the world.
Today’s activities are to start with a Bible study at 8:30 a.m. and instruction at 9 a.m.