2004 Pepsi All-Star Softball Game
By Softball West
Many thought the highlight of the 23rd annual Pepsi All-Star Softball game at the Big League Dreams Complex, would be the exciting 15-10 victory of the National League team and the sight of their favorite MLB players. In the end, it was Olympians Jennie Finch and Lisa Fernandez that made January 12, 2004 a day to remember. Being an Olympic year, NBC startled the Major League players by dropping the traditional homerun contest and setting up a softball pitching demonstration featuring All-star pitcher Jennie Finch (Lisa Fernandez was injured and was not able to pitch during the game). According to Finch, "my agent called and passed the invitation along. They wanted to add a little something to the weekend, so they invited myself along with Lisa Fernandez. I was honored and very excited about the invite".
The girls were originally brought in as coaching staff, Finch for the American League and Fernandez for the National League, advising the top players of the MLB on strategy for hitting the extraordinarily bulky ball. But during the festivities, as the Braves' Marcus Giles, the Padres' Brian Giles and the Athletic's Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson watched a number of pitches slide right by, the baseballers realized they were in for a surprise. Finch showed her knowledge and expertise in pitching. No one got a hit.
With the National League up 9-1, the American League gave Finch a chance to show her stuff. During the fifth inning, the American League teammates decided they needed a pitching change. Finch stepped up to the plate. Her teammates used the opportunity to relax, even sitting down in the field and enjoying a cool drink. While a few contacts were made, they were all foul. Finch struck out both Mike Piazza and Brian Giles before the inning was over.
Finch has become a legend since leading the University of Arizona into the Women's College World Series and helping to lead Team USA to the gold medal at the Pan Am games. Fernandez is a four-time All-American and two-time NCAA College World Series champion from UCLA and has been an inspiration to young girls across the country.
This was the first year that women were a part of the annual all-star competition. "Truly the reason why I enjoyed it is because it has brought attention to fastpitch. Working for "This Week in Baseball" has been a dream come true. Just being surrounded by the great players of the game has been an amazing thrill. I think the players have a new respect for fastpitch, having the opportunity to see it live. For example (they) see what a rise ball does and what it looks like".
Hundreds of teenagers have lifted Finch and Fernandez to idol status. Showing up at the stadium to see their favorite ball player, young girl's scouted, pen in hand, for a glimpse of their female role models. When asked what Finch hopes this event brings to girls around the country, she states, "The sky is the limit. It was the first time in 24 years that a female was invited to the event. That just shows how far our event has come and women's athletes in general. It is really exciting". She adds, "I think the crowd enjoyed seeing the challenge between women and men".
The Pepsi All-star softball game, created by Millsport, began in 1976 and has featured some of baseball's greatest stars pitting National League against American League as a way to raise charity funds. Since its foundation, over $1 million has been raised for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
The game will be shown on NBC sometime in March.
For more information contact Big League Dreams Field, Cathedral City, CA.
Don't forget to check out Jennie's website at www.jenniefinch27.com