By By Mary Buckheit
Special to Page 2

When it comes to certainties in life, you've got death, taxes and the resounding popularity of Anna Kournikova with the male population ... or so we thought.

Jennie Finch
Out with the old! Jennie Finch is the new Hottest Female Athlete.

In the most stunning upset this side of Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson -- and this one was a heck of a lot more fun to watch -- fastpitch softball star Jennie Finch dethroned Anna Kournikova as Page 2's Hottest Female Athlete.

Finch isn't used to losing: She helped capture the gold medal at the 2002 World Softball Championships and led her Arizona Wildcats to a the 2001 national title. But Jennie had no trouble playing the role of spoiler in our competition. She breezed through the preliminary round, edging out her closest competitor by nearly 100,000 votes, and then trounced Anna in head-to-head competition.

After watching her vanquish a legend, we knew Jennie's story needed to be told. But with the office's male population reduced to incoherent babbling at the sight of her photo gallery, the task called for someone capable of withstanding the hurler's heat. So with much regret, and a few marriage proposals to pass along, we sent Page 2's Mary Buckheit, a former college shortstop at Siena, up to the plate for 10 Burning Questions.

1. How did you first hear about our poll?
Jennie Finch: First, it was from my dad. He called me, all excited: "Jennie, do you know what's going on?" I was like, "No, dad, what's going on?" He said, "You need to go to ESPN.com and check it out. You have to see it!" I guess he had gotten a bunch of phone calls about it; so he finally went and looked.

Did your dad vote for you?
Finch: I'm sure he did.

Did your fiancé (minor-league pitcher Casey Daigle) check it out?
Finch: Yes, he saw it. Some of the guys were messing around with him at the field. All his buds were asking him, "So how many times did you vote for Jennie in the poll?" But he thought it was funny.

SELLING JENNIE
Will Jennie Finch's new title as the Hottest Female Athlete allow her to follow in Anna Kournikova's footsteps as a celebrity endorser? ESPN.com business reporter Darren Rovell investigates Finch's potential as a pitcher off the field.

So who did you vote for?
(in the Hottest Male Athlete poll)

Finch: I voted for Alex Rodriquez. I got the chance to interview him last weekend for "This Week in Baseball." Whoo. Yes, I would vote for Alex.

What about the ladies?
Did you vote for yourself?

Finch: I actually didn't vote. I was in it. ... I can't vote!

Oh, you abstained. Very modest.

2. So now that you are officially the hottest female athlete, do you think you'll be able to nab some more endorsement deals?
Jennie Finch
An agent is all that David Wells and Jennie Finch have in common.

Finch: I don't know. I mean, I hope so, but that's what I have an agent for. My job is to make the USA team, his job is to figure out all that good stuff.

I hear you have the same agent as David Wells, who can toss a perfect game when he's still hung over from the night before. Can you do that?
Finch: No way. Only David Wells.

3.These polls have brought you a ton of attention. Do you think this will help the fastpitch softball cause?
Finch: Definitely. I think we need everything we can get.

Anything else going on to help the cause?
I've been traveling around, anchoring for "This Week in Baseball," which allows me to talk to Major League Baseball players. It's amazing how many of them will come up to me and say, "Jennie, we watched you guys (Arizona/USA women's softball) on TV." I'm like, "You did? You watched us?!" Because we're usually the ones watching them. It's great that we have been able to earn the respect of baseball players. And it's great to hear that our sport really interests them. That helps us the same way it helps the WNBA to have the NBA behind them. There are so many similarities between these sports. Women's athletics are right there; we just need the attention and exposure.

I had the chance to do a 10 Burning Questions with Brandi Chastain and asked her about the nude photo shoot she did for Gear magazine. She said she didn't do it for soccer or for her teammates, but certainly it brought some attention to women's athletics. Would you ever do anything like that?

Brandi Chastain
Not even a perfect game celebration could jolt Jennie's jersey.

Finch: I'm kinda just going along for the ride with this sex-symbol thing. I'm not against teammates or female athletes who decide to get involved in those sort of opportunities, by any means, but I just don't think that's me.

So if you throw a perfect game in 2004 ... last inning, strike three, game over ... you wouldn't rip off your jersey and celebrate Brandi style?
Finch: I'd definitely be jumping around, yelling and screaming, piling on teammates -- absolutely. But I don't think I'd be taking my shirt off, no.

4. First word that comes to your mind when I say ...
"Anna Kournikova."

Finch: Model slash tennis player. Definitely model before tennis player, though.

How do you feel about thousands of people comparing you to Anna K?
Finch: It's really kinda shocking to me. No one in our sport has ever really gotten this kind of attention. We get it done on the field, and if we make the news, that's why, because of what we did on the field. The times that I have been in the media before have always been because of pitching or my team's success. I don't even know what to make of this. I'm not much of an Anna Kournikova.

5. So now that you are on "This Week in Baseball," haven't you had a chance to pitch to a few guys? Didn't you throw to A-Rod or something?
Finch: Umm, sort of. Actually, Alex just stood in ... he wouldn't swing.

Why not?!
Finch: He said he had nothing to prove, but he really wanted to watch, so he stood in the box. I threw him all the different pitches. He said if we won the 2004 Olympics, he might take a few hacks.

Did any major-leaguer have the stones to swing?
Finch: Bob Melvin, the Mariners manager took a few swings ... but I don't think he made any contact. So Mike Cameron came out. He was like, "All right, all right, let me try this." He fouled off two out of, like, six pitches. And then I struck him out.

Jennie Finch and Mike Cameron
Mike Cameron might have wiffed his way out of the box, but at least he had the stones to face the wicked windmill.

They couldn't touch you! Were you throwing the rise? That's gotta be the toughest pitch for them to handle.
Finch: Yeah, I was throwing them mostly rise balls and change-ups. They've never seen a pitch like that, you know? With the closer distance from the mound, I think it really surprises them how fast the pitch gets there. And especially with the rise -- when they're used to that over-the-top release point -- there is nothing else like it. The ball movement throws them off.

6. Baseball is having a lot of problems with steroids. Does fastpitch have that problem?
Finch: I don't think so. We don't have a pro league right now, so, sure, it's a different set of rules. But in college and for the USA team, we are randomly tested all the time -- there are very strict rules and regulations. It is something that is taken very seriously in softball, and it's not something that you could get away with. I've been tested probably three times in the last year for USA softball.

They tested a pitcher three times?! Geez, I can only imagine how many times they test your No. 4 hitter. Have you always been a pitcher?
Finch: Since I was 8 years old.

I played ball in college, so I know for a fact that pitchers have the weirdest superstitions ever. How about you? 'Fess up.
Finch: I guess I have a few. I never step on the lines. I won't touch the game ball until I start warming up. And I'm No. 27, and somewhere during the regular season I got on this kick of warming up 27 minutes before the game -- it just stuck.

7. What's your favorite movie?
Finch: I'm not really into movies too much. I mean, "A League of Their Own," of course. It's every true softball player's token favorite movie. It's so corny, but it's great, too. So classic. Gotta say it -- I love Kevin Costner in "For the Love of the Game," too.

8. How do you feel about Annika Sorenstam playing in a men's PGA event?

Jennie Finch
At 22, Jennie Finch is already a role model to many young female athletes.

Finch: I think it's great for her to get out there and challenge herself in that way. Obviously, she is taking a lot of heat right now, but I think its good. Ultimately, it will be good for women's golf and women's athletics.

There are a lot of little girls who look up to people like you and Annika right now. Who did you look up to, who are your mentors?
Finch: There are many, but the one who sticks out most for me is probably Lisa Fernandez. She's just built the sport up so much, and her excellence has been recognized by so many people.

There are so many women doing great things in sports: Mia Hamm, Marion Jones, Michelle Smith ... I admire them all so much. Hopefully it just keeps getting bigger for us because of people like them. They are the ones creating opportunities for female athletes all over.

9. I've heard guys say that volleyball players are hotties, basketball chicks are hot. But what about softball players? Have we gotten there yet?
Finch: Hopefully. I mean, we have some stereotypes to break, but right now, what is huge for softball and sotball players alike is getting those games televised so that people can see how athletic and talented we really are. That is where this new trend of positive feedback is coming from -- exposure.

10. If you could invite three people to dinner, who would they be?
Finch: Jennifer Lopez would be cool to have there. Definitely Michael Jordan. And, umm, Orel Hershiser.

There sure are a lot of Jennifers in the news right now. J-Lo, Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Aniston. Can you hang with those ladies?
Finch: Well, that would be some great company. But no, I don't think I'm much like any of them. Besides, I'm Jennie. J-e-n-n-i-e. So I'm just different, I guess. But I do get those "Jenny from the block" comments at least five times a day.






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