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Jennie Finch draws crowd in Folsom

By: Brett Ransford, Telegraph Correspondent
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Five-time Olympic gold medalist and four-time silver medalist Jennie Finch hosted her third annual Jennie Finch Softball Camp at Vista Del Lago on Saturday and Sunday. Nearly 300 excited young girls came from 16 states to participate with the Olympian. All fundamental skills of softball were featured at the camp, including a pitching demo by the world’s best pitcher herself. Finch took pictures with all the girls at the camp, had meals with families and welcomed everyone personally. It’s a crazy world that these kids are faced with everyday,” Finch said. “Maybe we can just have little positive impact on them. I know little things that inspired me along the way and hopefully this camp is one of those things for these girls.” The camp was the fundraiser event of the year for Rob Rodriguez and his Monarchs Sports Academy. Contributions from William Jessup University’s softball program and the Folsom Freedom Girls’ Softball team also worked with Finch and Rodriguez. It was the third year having Finch in Folsom and the second straight year at Vista del Lago. “Rob approached me three years ago about his non-profit organization and the life lessons they try to teach young athletes through sports,” said Finch.“That’s truly what this camp is all about. It goes beyond the playing field into life lessons, discipline, teamwork, leadership and [the Monarchs] do a lot in the community.” A number of other Olympic athletes were flown out for the event including teammates from University of Arizona and from the USA National Team and 2008 Beijing Olympics. Vicky Galindo, Tony Mascarenas, Mackenzie Vandergeest, Sam Banister and former Rio Americano star Janae Leles all were flown out to participate in the camp. “I had to go to LA or Stanford for camps like this when I was their age,” Leles said. “All of these girls have great family support. The community in general in Folsom is supportive. My niece is here and it’s good to be a part of this camp.” Finch and Monarch Sports Academy hosted a dinner Friday night to start the camp on a personal note. Three hundred kids are a lot though nearly one hundred less than were enrolled last year. Finch says she’s just grateful for being able to make lasting relationships. “Coming two years back-to-bac,k we get to make those relationships way beyond the playing field like with Rob’s daughter, Victoria, who’s great and little Micaela Scott who we met last year.” Two girls at the camp were Folsom sisters Lindsey Fenton, 11, and Abby, 8. The girls were volunteer helpers in the camp and enjoyed having Finch there. “My favorite part was having my picture taken with her,” said Lindsey. “She made really good analogies for things like wiping vegetables off the table with your bat because most kids don’t like vegetables.” Folsom resident Lisa Sidhu and her daughter Cassidy, 11, have been at both Vista camps. Cassidy enjoyed taking hitting lessons from Finch and looks forward to it all year. “Jennie Finch is here,” said Cassidy. “I like the Finch Windmill; it’s really cool.” According to Finch the camp was a success and had a great turnout. She said there were lots of excited parents, kids and families that made it much more than a clinic. Both Saturday and Sunday had lots of interaction between the Olympic players and the kids. “Jennie and my program have the same goals,” said Rodriguez. “Those goals are to teach these youth not only about the game of softball but the game of life. That’s our goal and that’s why we partner together. “Jennie believes in life beyond sports and that’s our motto. We’re trying to teach our kids how to give back to the community so it’s much bigger than softball.” Under triple digit temperatures, there were no complaints about the heat. “I think that’s a good testament right there when you’re sitting here baking and there’s no shade whatsoever and all the girls are still hustling from station to station,” Finch said. Rodriguez and Finch have a partnership, much like their camp and program goals, that goes way beyond softball. “We’ve had a great partnership with Rob so we want to keep coming back,” said Finch. “The area is beautiful and the people are great and Vista’s fields are amazing. “It’s all about dreams and believing in those dreams. I write on everything ‘dream ‘ and ‘believe’ and that’s what it’s all about. I try to tell these girls I was once in your shoes dreaming of wearing those metal cleats, wearing that uniform. Have a dream, have goals and surround yourself with positive people and a positive environment and go for it.”