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Finch announces retirement from softball

Sports first global star wants more time for family

Jennie Finch, the face of USA softball and a former Arizona star, announced her retirement from the sport Tuesday.

"This whole career has been way more than I ever even imagined or dreamed," Finch said to The Associated Press. "The opportunities that I'd be able to enjoy and appreciate and be a part of, it's been incredible."

The 6'1" pitcher's dominating play and cover-model looks helped her become the first international star of the sport, and helped usher it on to the global stage.

"Being able to see the sport grow so much in the past 10 years is such an honor," Finch said in a press release announcing her exit from softball.

"I could never have dreamed what an amazing ride this has been," she said.

Finch, 29, led the University of Arizona Wildcats to the 2001 national title before becoming an icon with the U.S. national team. She won gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens and silver four years later in Beijing.

She will play in her final games with the U.S. national team this week at the World Cup of Softball. She'll then finish the season with the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch League.

"Jennie has meant so much to the sport and the growth of it. She has brought it to a whole new level of recognition as a worldwide sport," said ASA Executive Director Ron Radigonda in a release.

Finch set the NCAA record for consecutive wins with 60 and was a two-time Honda Award winner as the top softball player in the country. Outside of the sport she was named one of People's Most Beautiful people in 2004, and was a member of The Celebrity Apprentice cast in 2008.

Finch is a three-time World Cup Champion, three time World Champion and a two-time Pan American Champion. She was the 2009 USA Softball Player of the Year.

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