Member of the 2004 Olympic Gold Medal Softball Team
Jennie Finch will look to represent the United States at the Olympics for the second time in her career this summer in Beijing, where she will be one of the pitchers for the gold-medal favorite. Finch, who is one of the most recognized female athletes in the world, made her Olympic debut in Athens in 2004, finishing with a 2-0 record and a 0.00 ERA. In two starts, she threw eight innings, striking out 13 batters and allowing just one hit and one walk. The right-hander played in her first World Championship in 2002 and helped the U.S. win the gold medal. She posted a 2-0 record and 1.17 ERA while striking out 12 batters in 12 innings.
Although Finch is no stranger to publicity, having graced the covers of numerous magazines, she found herself in an unfamiliar environment when she was one of 14 celebrities cast on the Donald Trump reality show The Celebrity Apprentice. Finch, who was playing for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, was "fired" by Trump on Jan. 24, four weeks into the show.
Before joining the national team, Finch concluded a stellar collegiate career at the University of Arizona. Playing under Team USA head coach Mike Candrea, Finch won the Honda Award as the nation's top collegiate player her sophomore and junior years. She led Arizona to the NCAA title as a junior by going 32-0, an NCAA record for victories in an undefeated season. The Californian also holds the NCAA record for consecutive victories, with 60.
Coming out party
Since appearing at the 2002 ESPY Awards, Finch has become a minor sensation. Nominated for Best Female College Athlete (she lost to University of Connecticut basketball player Sue Bird), the attention shifted from her fastball to her looks and attire. Considered the 'best-dressed' at the show, Finch wore a black and rhinestone evening gown she helped design, which upstaged the likes of Vivica A. Fox and supermodel Carol Alt. Following the ceremony she mingled with Brooke Shields, Jennifer Capriati, Matthew Perry, Wayne Gretzky and Samuel L. Jackson.
Finch's fashion sense influenced her endorsement deal with Mizuno, a softball equipment and apparel manufacturer that produces Finch signature lines. The 23-year-old says she chose Mizuno so she could have more control over the designs of the clothing. She wants the line to include trendy sweatsuits. Finch is so into fashion she even named her dog Prada, after the internationally-known apparel line. "I love makeup, I love clothes, I love shoes," she told the Arizona Daily Star. "I'm the ultimate girl!"
Pretty as a pitcher
While Finch's pitching earned her athletic accolades, her looks vaulted her into celebrity status. The blonde Finch joined baseball's Alex Rodriguez and auto racer Dale Earnhardt, Jr., as the only athletes among People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" in the spring of 2004. In 2003 she was voted ESPN.com's "Hottest Female Athlete," dethroning tennis player Anna Kournikova. Finch can also be seen on TV as a correspondent for ESPN's "This Week in Baseball."
Diamond from a Diamondback
Eight months after their first meeting, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Casey Daigle proposed to Finch. Daigle brought Finch to Hillenbrand Stadium, where Finch played with Arizona, and arranged for the lights to be turned on. He led a blindfolded Finch to the pitching mound and presented her with a five-carat diamond ring. "You've been the queen of this town for four years," he said. "Now I want you to be queen of my heart." The two were married on Oct. 30, 2004 and honeymooned in Bora Bora. Finch and Daigle, who now pitches for the Minnesota Twins, welcomed their first child, a son named Ace Shane, in May of 2006. Finch did not miss a season of softball due to pregnancy.
Whiffing MLB's best
In February 2004, Finch took the mound against major league hitters in the Pepsi All-Star Softball Game and struck out Albert Pujols, Mike Piazza, and Brian and Marcus Giles. "I never touched a pitch," an amazed Marcus Giles said. "Her fastball was the fastest thing I've ever seen, from that distance. It rises and cuts at the same time."
Almost 15 years ago, Finch's father, Doug, invented the Finch Windmill, an arm-strengthening device, while he was on disability for a job-related injury. It has sold thousands of units. "When I was young, he wanted a way to work out without actually having to throw," says Finch, who uses one herself. Her father now works as a softball hitting and pitching instructor.
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