Mo’ne Davis

Olympic champions come up short for AP Female Athlete of the Year

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Little League World Series star Mo’ne Davis, 13, was voted the youngest-ever Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year, an award given since 1931.

The highest-placing Olympian was third, tennis player Serena Williams, who won one Grand Slam tournament in an average-at-best year for her. Williams received 13 votes, behind Davis (31) and basketball player Lauren Hill (14), who played college basketball while battling terminal brain cancer.

The highest-placing Sochi Olympian was Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who tied for seventh with four votes. Shiffrin became the youngest Olympic slalom champion at age 18.

It’s the lowest place for the top Winter Olympian in a Winter Olympic year since the Winter and Summer Olympics began alternating even-numbered years with the Lillehammer 1994 Winter Games.

This is the first year that an Olympian did not win the award since Mexican golfer Lorena Ochoa in 2007. The only Winter Olympian to win in the last 20 years was Lindsey Vonn in 2010.

Here were the results:

Athlete Votes
Mo’ne Davis 31
Lauren Hill 14
Serena Williams 13
Katie Ledecky 7
Michelle Wie 5
Ronda Rousey 5
Mikaela Shiffrin 4
Stacy Lewis 4
Brittney Griner 3
Maya Moore 3
Simone Biles 2
Danica Patrick 1
Tina Maze 1
Ireen Wust 1

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Jennie Finch, Lisa Fernandez weigh in on Mo’ne Davis

Jennie Finch
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Before Mo’ne Davis, the most famous female pitchers were Olympic champion softball players such as Jennie Finch and Lisa Fernandez.

Finch and Fernandez took notice of the 13-year-old star of the Little League World Series.

“She’s breaking down barriers,” Finch said in a phone interview Wednesday. “It’s so exciting to see her not only make it this far, but shine on this big stage. A lot of young girls I’m sure are looking up to her and watching her.”

There are parallels. Let’s start with women striking out men.

Finch is known by baseball fans for making Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols look foolish in the batter’s box. Finch’s 2011 book was titled “Throw Like A Girl.”

Fernandez said “throw like a girl” used to feel like a putdown, but that women have come such a long way — boosted by softball being part of the Olympics from 1996 through 2008 — that the phrase is now jocular.

“It doesn’t have any relevance anymore,” said Fernandez, the greatest pitcher in Olympic history who won three gold medals.

Fernandez pointed to added respect, evidenced with one of her Olympic teammates, Jessica Mendoza, now working as an analyst for ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight.”

Davis’ baseball days appear numbered. She has said she prefers basketball long-term.

“I’m a little bummed about that,” said Fernandez, an assistant softball coach at UCLA. She has seen women’s high school baseball players transition to softball and play collegiately.

Throwing motions in baseball and fast-pitch softball are completely different — and so are the objects they’re hurling, of course. The Taney Dragons ace could be a shortstop or third baseman in softball. Her overhand arm strength suits those positions.

“There’s nothing to say that she couldn’t [be a softball player],” Fernandez said. “There’s one thing they say you can’t teach, and that’s arm strength and velocity. That’s an impressive gift that she has.”

From CSN Philly: Mo’ne Davis and Taney ready for toughest foe yet

The sport of softball failed in a joint bid with baseball to get back into the Olympics last year, losing an International Olympic Committee vote to wrestling.

The Women’s Softball World Championship is taking place in the Netherlands right now (the U.S. is 5-0 with a 37-3 run differential and three mercy-rule wins).

Fernandez remembers the first U.S. Olympic softball team in 1996. A majority of that roster grew up playing baseball, she guessed, because softball wasn’t as widespread.

Whether it’s baseball, softball or basketball, Fernandez is excited about Davis’ exposure.

“It’s only going to help women’s athletics,” she said.

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