Two-time Olympic softball pitcher Jennie Finch checked her phone during a lunch break Sunday and found out her sport was denied re-entry into the Olympics.
“Devastated,” Finch said. “Crushed.”
What came next wasn’t easy, either.
Finch put her phone away and returned to the Jennie Finch Softball Camp at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., where a group out of 400 total camp goers waited. Many had been asking “nonstop” about the vote.
The International Olympic Committee voted wrestling into the 2020 and 2024 Olympics over squash and a joint baseball-softball bid.
“Lots of disappointment on the softball field,” Finch said in a phone interview Monday morning, adding this message she told the camp members, as young as third-graders: “There’s two things you can always control, attitude and effort. Keep playing, keep pushing, keep growing our game.”
On Saturday, Finch spread to the camp the good news of Tokyo winning the 2020 Olympics. She hoped that the winning country where the sport is popular — Japan won the 2008 Olympic softball title over the U.S. — would enhance baseball-softball’s chances in the eyes of the IOC members Sunday.
“It’s so tough because I’ve been able to experience so much and see our sport grow all over the world,” said Finch, who lost her voice a bit after the weekend camp. “It was an opportunity being taken away. We, of course, are going to keep having hope. But that hope was once again lost (Sunday).”
Finch said wrestling deserved to be in the Olympics but that there should be a place for baseball-softball, too. Currently, there is not. The Games have a maximum number of athletes (10,500).
Major League Baseball has not committed to stopping its season to send players to the Olympics.
Finch said she sees pros and cons of baseball and softball joining together to try and get back into the Olympics after both were dropped in 2005, with it taking effect starting with the 2012 Games.
“I go back and forth,” she said. “Unfortunately, I think there’s so much that goes on that the public doesn’t know much about. … When (softball) joined with baseball, they truly thought that would be their best opportunity.”
In announcing wrestling’s win Sunday, IOC president Jacques Rogge singled out baseball.
“Hopefully, baseball’s successful in the future,” were his last words in the announcement.
The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) will not give up hope of trying to get into the Olympics.
“The WBSC will continue working hard and will continue listening and learning from the IOC, so that baseball and softball can come under the Olympic umbrella to serve and strengthen the Olympic Movement, as our sport expands and globalizes further,” Riccardo Fraccari, the president of the International Baseball Federation, told Reuters.