Softball players were presented with a perfect learning environment this past week at Diamond Nation as the Jennie Finch Northeast Nationals coincided with the TTSM/Diamond Nation National Softball Camp and a visit by Jennie Finch to create an unforgettable event.
Three days of softball games and a half-day of instruction by some of the top college coaches in the nation were married nicely with a memorable motivational speech by Finch as part of the event’s opening ceremonies.
The big winners on the field were Syracuse Sports Zone (12U), the Chicago Cheetahs (14U), Infinity Shock (16U) and Finch’s Aces Premier (18U), each of which won an age bracket championship. But each girl competing in the Northeast Nationals or receiving outstanding instruction in the TTSM/Diamond Nation National Softball Camp gained from an amazing learning experience.
The National Softball Camp was organized by TTSM owner Tommy Tarulli, who was left excited about the event’s first year and its prospects for the future.
“It’s 20 Years of friendships coming together at different divisions of softball but all in one division, on one day at the TTSM/DN Camp. Amazing!” said Tarulli, referring to his long standing relationships with elite college coaches nationally.
Florida State head softball coach Lonnie Alameda enjoyed her first visit to Diamond Nation.
“It’s my first time here and it’s an amazing facility,” said Alameda. “We do this to grow the game. Getting the girls and college coaches together and getting them familiar with each other is a step in that direction.”
Alameda steers a perennial Top 5 NCAA Division 1 program. Florida State won the 2014 and ‘18 NCAA National Championship and, this year, fell one victory shy of a stunning seventh straight trip to the College Softball World Series. Alameda has been named ACC Coach of the Year five straight seasons (2013-’17) and boasts a 695-318-2 career record.
“I think the girls enjoyed the camp,” said Alameda. “Hopefully they’ll use something they learned today in the games that follow. We want them to be confident and play with confidence.”
Alameda was joined by a bevy of elite national and local college coaches, creating an incredible learning environment for softball players of all ages. “It was incredible,” said Maddie McKevitt, one of the Finch’s Aces coaches assisting in the camp. “I’m standing there on the field next to Lonnie Alameda. What an opportunity for the girls.” McKevitt is a rising sophomore outfielder at Hofstra University.
The other NCAA college softball superpowers in the house were Alabama and Notre Dame in the persons of Alabama coach Pat Murphy and Notre Dame associate head coach Kris Ganeff.
Murphy’s run with Alabama has been amazing, as well. The Crimson Tide won the 2012 NCAA championship and Murphy’s teams have been to 11 College Softball World Series in all. Alabama fell one victory shy of the 2019 CSWS championship series. Alabama has won at least 45 games the past 18 straight years and qualified for the NCAA tournament in 20 of Murphy’s 21 seasons at Alabama. His teams have won 60 or more games four times leading to a robust career record of 1,023-293.
Murphy, running in the photo at the top of this page, was working on base running skills with the girls with St. John’s assistant coach Bob Guerrero.
“We spent about a half hour with each group knowing they will remember one or two big things,” said Murphy. “We suggest the girls jot some notes into their cell phones when they are done so they have something they can refer to.”
Ganeff has been part of a Notre Dame staff that was named the Mid-Atlantic Region Coaching Staff of the Year in 2014, ‘16 and ‘17. Ganeff played for the Fighting Irish and is viewed as one of the best all-around catchers in the school’s history. She was drafted by the Women’s Professional Softball League but went into coaching instead.
The rest of the great programs participating in the camp were Wisconsin, University, Illinois-Chicago, Lehigh, Monmouth, Bucknell, Seton Hall University, Villanova, Dayton, St. John’s, Caldwell, Appalachian State, Ramapo, Hofstra, Holy Cross and Lake Forest College. Also, longtime DePaul University coach Eugene Lenti, now an assistant at Auburn, was another top flight instructor.
“This was a great camp,” said Murphy, “with great people here from all around the country.”
Diamond Nation general manager Nick Massari was pleased with the event’s first year.
“It was our intention to make this first year a learning experience and a building block for future National events,” said Massari. “Twenty three teams was a good start, but I think we can double that for next year now that we understand the event a little better.”
Jennie wows them again
After the camp ended the girls retreated to their teams as they prepared for the Northeast Nationals playoffs on Wednesday afternoon. But first, each team paraded around Field 2 with their team banners as part of the playoffs opening ceremonies. Each team stopped for a photo in center field with Finch before they all settled around the first and third base lines to listen to a heartfelt speech by the softball legend.
“This is your last tournament of the summer,” Finch told the girls. “Give everything you’ve got. Do your very best. You’ve put in a lot of hard work and you’ve sacrificed.”
They players could clearly relate to Jennie’s talk about her own softball journey and what they need to do to overcome obstacles in their path.
“I had a coach when I was 12 years-old tell me I was never going to be a championship pitcher,” said Finch. “I’ve always used that as motivation. You’re going to have adversity on the field and off. When you do, take a breath and say ‘this is going to make me, not break me.’”
Jennie reminded the girls that softball is a tough game that continually throws challenges their way.
“You have to understand that you can’t control a lot of things in life but you can control your attitude and your effort,” she said. “Our mind is our most powerful tool. Don’t give in to the doubts that creep in, that negative voice. Just say, ‘I believe.’ You have to be your own best friend.”
And Jennie never misses a beat when it comes to touching the girls’ hearts.
“This world needs your gift and your strength,” Jennie said. “It’s more important who you are becoming.”
Overall, the dual events created a special three days at Diamond Nation and were a large and successful undertaking by Thomas Tarulli Sports Marketing (TTSM).
“I thought our first Jennie Finch National was a great success,” said Massari. “We experienced great competition in a fun environment. As always, Jennie was a great inspiration to all the players and really made the playoff day special!”