The Olympic gold medal winner talks about the sport she loves and shares some of the secrets to her success

Jennie Finch is perhaps the most well-known and celebrated women's fast pitch softball player of all time. With her athleticism and competitiveness on the ball field only matched by her grace and beauty off it, Jennie has vastly helped to move women's softball into the mainstream public eye. At age 28, her list of career accomplishments already reads like the stuff of legend. As a young girl growing up in La Mirada, CA, it was very clear from a young age there was nothing this tall athletic blond couldn't do on a softball field. Finch displayed excellent hitting and base-running skills and was an absolutely dominant pitcher. After a magnificent high school career in which she went 50-12, with six perfect games, 13 no-hitters, 784 strikeouts, and posted a 0.15 ERA in 445 innings, Jennie moved to Tucson, AZ to play her college ball for the University of Arizona Wildcats. Playing under Team USA head coach Mike Candrea, Finch solidified her status as a young phenom by becoming a three-time All-American and winning the Honda Award as the nation's top collegiate player her sophomore and junior seasons. She also helped lead the Wildcats to the NCAA championship title as a junior by going 32-0, and setting an NCAA record for consecutive victories, with an astounding 60 wins.

By the time Finch graduated from college in 2002, she was already somewhat of a household name. While her pitching earned her athletic accolades, Jennie's beauty vaulted her into celebrity status. The tall California blonde 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 the previous year, Jennie was voted's "Hottest Female Athlete," dethroning tennis player Anna Kournikova. Finch also received rave reviews for her work as a correspondent on ESPN's "This Week in Baseball." A highlight of that stint included a feature in which she struck out Mike Piazza, Brian and Marcus Giles and several other prominent major-league baseball players.

Since 2005, Jennie has played for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch Softball League, a league that benefits greatly from her star quality. She has also played in two Olympic summer games, leading the USA national team to a gold medal victory in 2004, and a silver medal this past year in Beijing. ProSource
recently had the opportunity to speak with Jennie about life, her young softball career, and the fitness routine that has helped her dominate the sport.

Q. When did you first get involved with the sport of fast pitch softball?

recently had the opportunity to speak with Jennie about life, her young softball career, and the fitness routine that has helped her dominate the sport.
A: I was 5.

Q. What sports other than softball did you play growing up?

A: I played basketball and volleyball. It helps to be tall in those too!

Q. What player did you look up to growing up (in softball and or baseball)?

A: Orel Hershiser and Lisa Fernandez were my top two idols. It was so incredible to play with Lisa and other women I grew up admiring and looking up to in the 2004 Olympics. I feel so blessed and lucky to have had that experience.

Q. What was your training regimen like when you were growing up? Did you have one outside of regular team practice?

A: I would have three days of team practice each week, and three days of pitching with my dad. I was really lucky he was so involved, and is still so involved. I couldn't have done it without him.

Q. You're from California, what access did you have to recreation/training facilities in your youth?

A: It was great growing up in California. I had a speed and agility coach as I got older and needed one. Plus there were always plenty of softball fields and indoor batting cages. We have such an advantage out here. That's why I'm so excited about the Jennie Finch Softball Academy in Flemington, NJ. It's a domed facility and we're going to be able to give all the girls on the east coast what we're so used to having out here.

Q. At what age did you start working out/lifting?

A: I started lifting in college. Before that it was mostly resistance training. I always used the product my dad designed, the Finch Windmill. I still do because it's so great for creating muscle balance and preventing injury.

Q. What does the normal daily workout routine of a pro pitcher consist of? Weight training? Is the workout routine of a professional softball player significantly different from that of a college athlete?

A: The workout stays the same, except that I had more time once I was out of school to work out. And I guess it became a little more position specific as I got older, but we work out six days a week doing aerobic training for 45 minutes, and then interval training and weights for three days a week for 60-90 minutes. And like I said, I still do the Finch Windmill 5 days a week.

Q. How would the workout regiment of a softball player differ from other types of athletes?

A: There are so many different aspects to softball. Running, hitting, pitching. Our workouts have to be well-rounded, too. I think in other sports they maybe get a little more specific. I know that's true for baseball.

Q. What if anything has changed in your workout routine since going pro and maturing as a pitcher?

A: Not much. That's the great thing. You just keep building on what's already there. I guess I have more body awareness now that I'm older, which doesn't change the routine but it means that I work out a little differently.

Q. Being a professional softball pitcher, how much recovery time do you need between games pitched?

A: None if you're mechanics are right, but growing up I think it was best if I pitched two games a weekend. In the Women's College World Series I think I threw 1300 pitches in a week. It means you have to be in good shape!

Q. What is the role of nutrition in an athlete's performance?

A: It's so important to put good fuel in your body when you're working out and playing. It makes such a difference. I'm a mom, too, and a wife, so it's a hard sometimes because we're so busy as a family. I like to have things around that I can grab quickly.

Q. Do you use vitamins/supplements of any kind? If so what products do you use?

A: Supreme Protein® bars are great. They are the perfect post-workout snack for me. It's quick. It's easy. I just grab one and go. The good news is they taste great!

Q. Obviously endurance plays a huge role in pitching. What kind of endurance training do you do to build up your stamina?

A: I mix in long runs with intervals, and I'll do stuff like doing my weight workout first and then my pitching workout so I go into it tired.

Q. What percentage of pitching is physical vs. mental?

A: I think it's a 50-50 mix. You really can't have one without the other and still win.

Q. How much does sheer strength have to do with fast pitch softball?

A: That's hard to say. There are so many things that go into good pitching '" flexibility, strength, wrist snap. I've heard the term "functional strength" and think maybe that's more important than sheer strength.

Q. Does fast pitch softball put a lot of stress on your arm/shoulder?

A: Absolutely. There's a myth out there that because the underhand motion is supposedly more natural, fastpitch is safer than baseball. But we have girls out there having shoulder surgery, elbow surgery and knee surgery. The right mechanics are so important, and the right training.

Q. You're arguably the face of women's fast pitch softball. What's the life of a professional softball player like?

A: [Laughs] It's busy. I'm blessed to be able to play for Team USA and for the Chicago Bandits. I get to travel and speak to people across our great country. My favorite thing to do still is teach and do camps with girls and their families who love this sport. It's amazing to look at them and know they have it all in front of them. I like to encourage them to dream and believe.

Q. What is your hope for the future of women's fast pitch softball?

A: The IOC voted baseball and softball out for 2012. We're working hard to get it back in for 2016. Our sport is too good not to have it on the world stage! And I hope the professional side thrives. I want today's girls to have the opportunity to play and achieve their dreams on the softball field. Our games are so fun. They're great to take your family to and they're not expensive. It's fun. We have teams in Akron, Rockford, Elgin and Washington, D.C. It's great. Where else are you going to see the best softball players in the world competing against each other? We want the pro league to improve and expand. Our sport should continue to allow players to stay active, get their college educations and have the opportunity to compete on a world stage in the Olympics.

Q. What are your future career goals?

A: To keep playing as long as I can and to inspire as many girls as possible to keep dreaming their dreams and believing in themselves.

Q. What have your Olympic experiences been like?

A: They've been incredible '" beyond words really. The first one I was pretty intimidated. Here I was playing alongside women I'd idolized in the country where the Olympics began. In Athens there were so many things I didn't know to expect, and it made me a little afraid. In China, it was more comfortable. Unfortunately we lost and that was so hard, but I think life is mostly about how you deal with failure. And maybe that loss will help softball get back into the Olympics, since one of the reasons we were given was that it was taken away because the US has been too dominant.

Q. How does winning an Olympic gold medal compare to winning in college or pro?

A: A win is a win, but nothing compares to representing your country.

Q. What has been your single greatest moment in softball so far?

A: The gold medal in Athens. No doubt.