In case you weren't aware, the college softball world series is underway. Our #1 seeded Oregon Ducks just finished off the Eugene regional with a 3-0 record and are set to take on NC State today at 6:00 pm at Howe Field in the Super Regional. Because of this, our friends over at Capital One were able to get an interview with softball legend, Jennie Finch. Not only was she able to drop some knowledge on the college softball world series taking place, but also to promote the Capital One Cup!
Here's the full interview:
(D) First off, could you talk about the Capital One Cup and your involvement in that?
(J) I'm honored to be on the acting advisory board. The Capital One Cup honors the top men’s and women’s top collegiate schools in the country, and not only do they win the Capital One Cup but they win bragging rights and every college fan is looking for that. They also win over $400,000 combined, $200,000 for each student athlete scholarship funds. It’s an extreme honor to be able to be involved in collegiate athletics and I’m honored to be apart of Capital One and this commitment to the achievement of student-athletes both on and off the field.
(D) Which teams and players in particular are you looking forward to seeing most? Who do think are the legitimate contenders for the national championship?
(J) Well, it’s a crazy game. You just look at the offensive numbers and it’s wild to see how much offense there is across the country. Being that I’m a former pitcher, my heart is with the pitchers so I want to see some dominance out there on the mound. When I think of dominance on the mound I think of Cheridan Hawkins from Oregon.
And Oregon has been so close the last couple of years and I feel like they’re overdue. So I’ll be watching the Oregon Ducks who we obviously played in the Pac-12 and I’m excited to see what they can do. It’s incredible to think that not one of their hitters in the lineup is hitting under .300. Their slugging percentage is .550+ and on-base percentage .430+. It’s so impressive what they’ve been able to do this year. They’re such a well balanced team with speed and power and obviously pitching with Cheridan, so I’m looking for them to take it pretty far, hopefully all the way this year.
And I think Florida too. Obviously they’re the defending national champions. They have the experience under their belt. Lauren Haeger has been phenomenal on the mound and at bat as well so I expect them to be in the end as well and compete for a back-to-back championship. It’s going to be an exciting road. I haven’t been able to see much of Michigan this year but Megan Betsa has 235 strikeouts in 138 innings which is pretty impressive and Sierra Romero as well, who might be the best player in the country. So we’ll see what Michigan can do. But I think this year has proved in all conferences that any team can win and so it’s going to be an exciting couple of weeks for college softball and we’ll see where it takes us.
(D) You and your Arizona Wildcats team won it all in 2001. Could you describe that experience?
(J) There is nothing better than being the last team standing at the end. It’s magical, truly a dream come true. It’s why you play, it’s why you train. There's nothing better than that feeling. You think about that game, that feeling, if there’s anything better. But it wouldn’t be if you didn’t cherish the journey as well and every team has their own journey that you have to enjoy each day as a gift and if you’re still playing at this point it’s a gift. It’s an amazing thing to be a student-athlete and to be able to make it all the way for sure.
(D) You were a part of the gold winning team at the 2004 Olympics. What was it like representing your country?
(J) There’s nothing better than wearing USA across your chest and representing your country on the greatest sports stage of all, and that’s the Olympic games. For me personally, it was a thrill having the women I lived with too; Lisa Fernandez, Laura Berg, Leah O’Brien on the same team as me. Being able to play with the ambassadors of our sport was quite a thrill as well. So it was another dream come true; one that every college softball player and softball player in general dreams of.
(D) You are the face of softball to the vast majority of people. What has it been like transitioning from just an athlete to household name and celebrity?
(J) I still feel like that tomboy little girl living her dream, and still having dreams now that I’m a mother. I don’t feel any different. It’s been an amazing wild ride, I’ll tell you that. Never in a million years would I have thought a yellow ball would have gotten me to the places it has, and introduced me to the people that it has. I even met my husband through the game of softball and now have three kids so it’s been everything and more that I could have ever possibly imagined. It’s so exciting to see how far we’ve come in our sport and I think the coverage that the postseason is getting and even the regular season has gotten, it’s a huge testament to women and sports and those who have paved the way before us to get it where it is today. It’s so exciting to see and celebrate how far we’ve come and that’s another exciting thing about the Capital one Cup. It shines light on the sports that don’t always get that big spotlight on them but it’s been so fun to follow and see the growth of college softball and the coverage with it now. Young Girls are used to being able to turn on the TV and see a college softball game. It’s a dream come true in itself.
(D) Going off of that, could you talk about just how much different it was for you when you were growing up playing softball compared to how it is for young softball players now?
(J) Most definitely. When I was way younger it was the Dodgers and that’s what I wanted to be; an MLB pitcher and play for the Dodgers and wear Dodger blue. Then my parents started introducing me to college softball and that’s all I really saw beyond high school and then once that goal became a reality then in 1996 it became an Olympic sport and that’s truly what I think catapulted it to being an international game and to where we are today. And now the college game; it’s such a thrill for me to see young girls know college softball players and follow them and have role models within the college game. My first couple of years we had to make it to the championship game to get on TV and then my senior year all of the games were on TV. But now, week in and week out we see softball on TV so it’s a huge testament not only to the game of softball but women in sport and the platform that we have now and we need to enjoy and never take that for granted. Especially with the Olympic vote I think it can be gone in a split second so enjoy it and appreciate how far we have come.
(D) You talked about how much you loved the Dodgers growing up. Being that you’re the inspiration for so many young softball players now, who were you trying to emulate when you were growing up as a pitcher and athlete?
(J) Oral Hershiser. When I was about five, I wanted to be Oral Hershiser. But growing up in southern California I got to watch Lisa Fernandez when she pitched for UCLA and I loved it because she wasn’t just a pitcher. She played third base and could crush the ball as well. So that’s who I looked up to and emulated and would watch her workouts and was their bat girl. And I had the opportunity of playing alongside her, which was surreal and such an enjoyment and everything I hoped for sure. Just her work ethic and the ambassador she’s been for our game I’m just so thankful for.
(D) You’ve had such a storied career and now one in broadcasting. What would you say the highlight of all of it has been? What's one memory you cherish the most?
(J) I would have to say the 2004 Olympic games. Getting that gold medal wrapped around your neck, there’s nothing that tops that in my career, other than meeting my husband through the game. But on the field for sure it would be bringing home the gold and representing our great country and doing it with the women that I look up to beside me was a complete thrill.
Big thanks to Jennie and Capital One! The Super Regional between Oregon and NC State will be aired on ESPNU.