Earlier this week, Karley Clark, a participant in the softball Elite Development Invitational in Kansas City, became the first of four softball athletes this year to receive the prestigious Jennie Finch Empowerment Award.
It didn’t feel real to Clark when it was announced to a group of her peers at the event.
“I was in shock — I don’t really know what I was thinking,” she said. “I was shaking, I was in shock.”
This award, which was presented to Karley by two-time Olympic medalist Natasha Watley, is an award that exemplifies great individual qualities, both on and off the softball field, of a young female who is a scholar, humanitarian and an athlete. All of these play into the six main characteristics of the Arm & Hammer JFEA: commitment, leadership, dedication, integrity, humility and motivation.
Clark, a catcher who recently finished her junior year of high school, isn’t new to softball competition. She helped her team win districts this year at Fairfield High School in Ohio. She participated in the Breakthrough Series in 2021, competes for the Cincinnati Reds RBI team (which she traveled with to Los Angeles for All-Star Week last year) and took part in a Play Ball clinic run by professional softball players Aliyah Andrews and Sis Bates.
Watley commended Clark for leading by example during softball’s EDI.
“You are a leader on the field — you are vocal. You’re the first on the fence to cheer,” Watley said. “Being a leader, on and off the field, you are encouraging others so much.”
Clark emphasized that she hopes to inspire others as a team leader.
“I hope to inspire and encourage them to keep playing the game, keep pushing themselves, even when it’s hard to keep the confidence up,” she said. “Get on the field, get on the fence and pump themselves up. Pump their teammates up. Just being a teammate that you want somebody else to be to them.”
While Jennie Finch wasn’t able to be there in person to present Clark with this award and the $10,000 scholarship check, she video-called her to congratulate her.
“I am so excited for you — winning our first Empowerment Award, presented by Arm & Hammer, of the season. I’m so bummed I couldn’t be there to hand it to you myself, but I had to call and wish you congratulations,” Finch said. “I’m so excited for you and your future and all the good that you are bringing to you and your community.”
Monica Abbott, fellow USA Softball Olympian, shared high praise from her time coaching Clark recently.
“Karley did a great job — she was very team-oriented first. She is very coachable and responsive with instruction, and she was willing to be uncomfortable at times for the betterment of the team,” Abbott said. “Really proud of her [for being] able to win this award.”
Clark’s Cincinnati Reds Nike RBI teammate, Alli Fowler, gave glowing remarks to her teammate that mirrored that of the Olympians.
“Karley receiving the Empowerment Award motivates me to be a better player, knowing that she is somebody that I’m friends with so if I can put as much effort in as she does, that I can get the same opportunity.”
As a recipient of this award, Clark will be honored during a pregame ceremony before a World Series game later this year.
The scholarship part of this award, Clark said, will open new avenues for her to achieve her goals.
“I think it would give me more opportunities to go to colleges that otherwise without it, I wouldn’t even think about going to,” she said.
The Jennie Finch Empowerment Award motto — “MORE POWER TO YOU” — reigns true. Clark joined a select group who have won this amazing award and is a prime example as she continues to not only inspire others to be great leaders in softball, but also to have an impact far beyond the sport in character in whatever she pursues for her college and career.