On June 23, the 50th anniversary of Title IX, Jennie Finch reflected on the doors the landmark legislation opened for her while also paying it forward in women’s sports. The softball legend and current MLB® youth ambassador recognized the first of four recipients of the Jennie Finch Empowerment Award presented by Arm & Hammer, which honors the top performers at MLB®-led softball programs around the country.
As Grace Shary, a high school junior in Long Beach, Calif., accepted the award at the Softball Elite Development Invitational in Vero Beach, Fla., she also relished the opportunity to meet Finch in person. The Olympic gold medalist and NCAA All-American is on hand each time to personally announce the winner.
Shary and the three other award recipients — Samantha Santana of DREAM RBI in New York City, Christy Concepcion of the Miami Marlins Youth Academy and Maritza Lopez-Gonzalez of the Philadelphia Phillies Youth Academy — are recognized for their demonstrations of leadership, motivation, commitment, dedication, humility and integrity in their schools, on their teams and throughout their communities. Each student-athlete receives a $10,000 college scholarship, courtesy of Arm & Hammer, and a trip to the MLB® World Series presented by Capital One.
To date, Arm & Hammer has donated $140,000 to the MLB® Youth Foundation and Jennie Finch Empowerment Award honorees.
“I don’t really have a college fund, so getting this scholarship is very, very important,” Concepcion said. “I don’t really have enough money to save up for college, and honestly it’ll make my experience so much easier.”
Santana, who received the award in the Los Angeles area in July, said she dreams of moving from New York City to play softball at UCLA because of the program’s history and her role model, four-time All-American pitcher Rachel Garcia.
Lopez-Gonzalez plans to use the scholarship money toward her goal of becoming a doctor. Before that, the third baseman realized another dream when she and the other award winners attended Game 2 of the MLB® World Series presented by Capital One between her hometown Phillies and the Houston Astros.
“I always say, I’m the one brought in to inspire and encourage,” Finch said, “but I always leave just being more inspired and more motivated to do more for the next generation because of what these young girls do and what they overcome day in and day out.”
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