Softball legend Jennie Finch is as comfortable chatting with young players as she was on the mound.
This hurricane season has been particularly difficult on Louisiana, which is still reeling from Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm that destroyed or damaged numerous private and public properties, including schools. The home state and hometown of softball legend Jennie Finch is in the middle of a difficult and long disaster recovery.
Typical of Jennie, she is spearheading local recovery efforts and will be unable to attend the Finch’s Aces Fall Invitational on Saturday and Sunday. While Finch will be sincerely missed for her always uplifting interactions with the young players at the annual event, it is hoped the softball community can step up to help ease the recovery burden on Louisiana communities.
Hurricane Laura made landfall in Cameron, Louisiana on August 27 with a 17-foot storm surge, causing $10 billion in damage in western Louisiana and southeastern Texas.
“It’s going to be a long rebuilding process,” says Finch. “We are currently on Day 29 without electricity. Ninety percent of the schools were severely damaged. If teams would like to donate softballs or equipment to our local schools, Hackberry High School and Cameron High School are in great need. More than 90 percent of their communities were destroyed. We can use prayers”
While the 77 teams competing in the 10U, 12U, 14U, 16U and 18U age brackets vie for championships in the two-day tournament, Jennie’s thoughts remain with the many young players who look up to her. The past seven months of 2020 have presented one daily challenge after another courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have been dealt a lot of adversity in 2020,” said Finch. “We never would have expected the restrictions, in-person school to be removed, sports to be cancelled, etc. There have been a lot of changes in society as we knew it. I think it’s important to take it day-to-day, just as we take it pitch-by-pitch on the field.”
That clearly is what Jennie is doing right now in Louisiana. Finch, who has given so much to the Finch’s Aces program and softball in New Jersey and the nation in general, can certainly use a little help in her recovery mission. Visitors to Diamond Nation this weekend will have an opportunity to donate upon their entrance to the park to Hurricane Laura Disaster Relief.
“While I recognize the players, coaches and parents will be upset about Jennie not being able to make the trip up north, I also know that they will completely understand and come together to show their support,” said Diamond Nation’s General Manager Nick Massari. “Jennie has given everything to the game she loves and to the entire youth softball community. Now it’s time for that same community to step up and give back to her. It’s sort of a role-reversal that can help a tremendous amount of people who have lost so much in the wake of the hurricane.”
Jennie is such a major proponent of positive thinking, so embraces it as a challenge when someone says, ‘It can’t be done.’ “Deep breaths, positive thoughts, prayer and we all have to do what we can with what we have,” says Finch. “There have been a lot of ‘Nos’ and ‘cannots’ placed in front of us during challenging times like hurricane disasters and this pandemic. However, I would like to challenge you to wake up every day, make a gratitude list and focus on what you can.”
Finch’s usual fall visit to Diamond Nation includes coaching and encouraging players in games and clinic settings and, more importantly, reminding the girls that they can achieve big things by believing they can. Fall softball is a good time to make strides in that area and, in this time of pandemic, to overcome the challenges laid before us.
“Fall ball is a great time to focus on the mental game,” she says, “things like speed and agility. You all have sidewalk chalk. Draw an agility ladder. Jump rope, do air squats, sumo squats. Make the most of your time. YouTube is filled with things like drills, exercises, positivity. Fill your brain with good thoughts and words. Don’t waste time scrolling through your phone and on social media.”
Finch has always been one to find opportunity in adversity.
“We’ve realized over the last six months that it’s truly a gift to be able to be together,” she says. “Don’t sweat the little stuff, encourage one another, be kind, show and give grace. Enjoy the game, the good and bad, the wins and losses. And mostly enjoy the time together, playing the game you love. And when you do get time with your teammates, make it count. Don’t let one second be taken for granted.”
When we go through difficult times we find it constructive to help others, as Jennie is doing in her hometown. “Self-focus sometimes can be hard on the soul,” says Finch. “Find a young player to invest time in, coach, teach, spend time being a positive role model for someone, a cousin, friend or sibling.”
Equipment donations can be sent to Jennie Finch Softball, P.O. Box 2496, Sulphur, LA 70663.