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December 10, 2019

Heidi Watney

Jennie Finch

Ryan Howard

San Diego, California

HEIDI WATNEY: Hello. I'm Heidi Watney from the MLB Network. We have an exciting announcement from MLB and the Scotts Company, and we have two people here to talk about it. If you want to come and join us, we have really exciting news from MLB and the Scotts Company.

As you see on the stage behind me, we have two champions of baseball and softball. First, Jennie Finch, an Olympic gold medalist, who's one of the greatest softball players of all time and an even better human being, and we have -- she's MLB Youth Softball Ambassador and the spokesperson for the Scotts Field Refurbishment Program.

And next to Jennie, we have another athlete with a career full of accolades. Philadelphia Phillies legend Ryan Howard joins us. A three time All-Star, a World Series champion, and he's joining Jennie to support the Scotts Field Refurbishment Program. Welcome to San Diego. Thank you for joining us today.

Now, this program started a few years ago to give kids a better place to play ball, to give them better fields to play ball. Jennie, I'm going to start with you. What drew you to want to be a part of this program?

JENNIE FINCH: Well, I know firsthand what a field means and how it can translate into better human beings, like you said. Yes, it's about playing a game, being active, but it's so much bigger than that. It's learning those life lessons, such as discipline, sacrifice, teamwork, so many gifts that this game brings through fields. To be able to provide a safe place for young kids to be able to go out and play this game, I'm all in.

HEIDI WATNEY: Obviously. The foundation for so many things in life, and what better foundation than to start with the field. Ryan, what drew you to want to be a part of the Scotts Field Refurbishment Program?

RYAN HOWARD: I echo a lot of the same sentiment that Jennie had put down as well. I think it's important from giving the kids this platform, giving them the area and the opportunity to be able to go out and succeed and also live your dreams, be able to play on the same kind of turf and the same kind of field that you might see a hero like Jennie Finch playing or watch your favorite Major League Baseball player playing on, giving you that confidence to be able to try and go and succeed at the next level.

HEIDI WATNEY: Jennie, you grew up not too far from here, Southern California. What were fields like for you when you were growing up and when you were younger and just learning to play?

JENNIE FINCH: Lots of grass. There weren't too many dirt infields like you play on as you get to higher levels, but we were just thrilled to be able to go outside and play. My parents signed me up to play when I was 5, and I remember watching the Dodgers and dreaming of being a Major League Baseball player one day through sport.

So I'm thankful for, like Ryan was saying, a dream, first and foremost, goals, and then to be able to go out there and do that, gain sisters along the way, and what an amazing opportunity. It all started with the game and with a field, a place to play.

HEIDI WATNEY: I echo that. When you have a place that you're proud of that you can go and say, This is such a beautiful field, let's all meet there, let's get together, the camaraderie, it's just amazing.

Ryan, you've played on some of the best fields in the world. Do you have any favorites?

RYAN HOWARD: Yes, absolutely. Obviously, being from St. Louis, always loved going to St. Louis. I always thought that the grass and the fields there were always very well manicured and well kept.

And for me, that's where it all began, playing on some of the local fields and going back and looking at those fields as I progressed from being a little kid all the way up through high school where some of those fields -- we didn't have grass. We had dirt, a lot of dirt on the infield. And then we had some really kind of rugged grass in the outfield. It was one of those things where you just had to protect yourself at all times.

But being able to go there, kind of living the dream of playing in a Busch Stadium and being able to realize that and see the other fields and organizations that I was able to play at coming along the way and kind of seeing the progression of that was something that was very, very cool for me.

HEIDI WATNEY: So this Field Refurbishment Program could have really benefited you as a kid?

RYAN HOWARD: Absolutely, no doubt. No doubt.

HEIDI WATNEY: You could submit your application. Applications, I think, can be submitted until the end of January. It's really such a great program to be able to reach out to kids. Do you have any fields, as you were a kid, that really stuck out to you, just some great memories from those fields?

RYAN HOWARD: Oh, most definitely. There's this one field, Ballwin Athletic Association back home, where there was the infamous Red Lobster home run. So there was one where I hit this home run and it bounced up, and there was a Red Lobster in the parking lot back across the street and whatnot and kind of hit that. That was one of those fields that had a little bit of grass on it. We were starting to progress where we were starting to get grass on there.

But as a little kid, when you had those opportunities, it made you feel like you were a Big Leaguer in a sense. Then actually being able to get to that level and playing on that level and playing in Major League stadiums was amazing.

HEIDI WATNEY: Did you get a free dinner out of it?

RYAN HOWARD: I did not get a free dinner actually. There might have been a bill. I might have hit a window or something so --

HEIDI WATNEY: Jennie, do you have a favorite field memory?

JENNIE FINCH: Probably Kling, where it all began. I just remember every weekend I couldn't wait to get out there with my teammates and play the game that I love. I have two older brothers, so I lost a lot growing up. For me, that was a place to win and to be successful and I think, too, just a place to see my body at work and see how strong and powerful I actually can be. And what an empowerment thing that was for me being a female and seeing what I'm capable of and how these strong shoulders can turn into something amazing.

HEIDI WATNEY: What about later in your career, the Olympics? Does anything stand out to you as being such a pristine surface to play on?

JENNIE FINCH: The field crew at University of Arizona, they were my best buds. Johnny O., he was the director, he still is today. And the mound was absolutely gorgeous, the grass, there wasn't one flaw. So definitely University of Arizona.

And anytime traveling the world, it's always great to, like Ryan was saying, play on your home turf. So Oklahoma City, home of USA Softball, the Women's College World Series, no place better than that. Obviously, the Olympics, nothing compares to that, being in Greece. Those fields were kind of makeshifted just for the Olympic games, but what an amazing platform that was to be able to play our game and compete for our country.

HEIDI WATNEY: They could probably use some help from Scotts. Does anyone have any questions before we wrap this up? Thank you so much, Jennie and Ryan, for joining us for this wonderful program, the Scotts Field Refurbishment Program.

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