Jennie Finch’s dream as a young girl in Southern California was to one day play for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
While she took a roundabout way to wear Dodger blue, the dream eventually came true for the two-time Olympic softball champion. Her message Tuesday night was that dreams do come true with focus and hard work.
Finch was keynote speaker for the 26th annual GAMES Awards Banquet at the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center, presented by The Augusta Chronicle and Augusta Sports Council. The banquet, created in 1992, highlights outstanding amateur athletes in the Augusta area.
The awards platform was revised to recognize first-teams in 10 sports, as well as overall athletes of the year, and an athlete and coach of the year in each sport.
Cross Creek baseball player Luis Campusano was named male athlete of the year and Aiken’s Frelicia Tucker was named female athlete of the year.
“Let your game do the talking,” Finch said. “Let the naysayers motivate you. Believe in yourself, because the sky is the limit.”
Finch brought a message of motivation to many of the area’s top athletes. She recounted memories from a career that included becoming a national champion at Arizona and a gold and silver medalist for the U.S. Olympic Softball team.
She later starred on This Week in Baseball, a weekly baseball show that highlighted fun aspects of the sport. Finch would pitch to various major leaguers and strike out each one. It culminated in her donning Dodger blue in Los Angeles and facing the team’s catcher Paul Lo Duca.
“I grew up going to Dodger games. I was the kid down the third base line, hoping one day to wear Dodger blue,” she said. “Dreams do happen.”
One of the banquet’s highlights was awarding $1,000 in scholarship money from the sports council to two deserving athletes. Augusta Prep’s David Bramble and Harlem’s Katie Essick were presented checks and brought to the stage for photos.
Bramble is a football player who plans to play at Presbyterian College and major in engineering. Essick is a standout soccer player who will major in biology at Anderson University in Indiana and eventually attend medical school.
“This is crazy. I needed this money,” Bramble said. “Football is something, but my academics are going to take me way farther in life than football.”
“I was so shocked,” Essick said. “Out of all the female athletes, I was so awestruck. I couldn’t even believe it.”
Reach David Lee at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.