More than 3,000 tickets had already been sold to Wednesday's York Revolution game before the gates even opened.

And many fans showed up early, hoping to be the first in line to get an autograph from Jennie Finch, the woman once coined by Time Magazine as the most famous softball player of all time.

It's been six years, though, since Finch was at the height of her game pitching for Team USA in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. Her fame, however, has not faded, as evidenced by the long line of fans waiting for an autograph Wednesday at Santander Stadium on South Central Pennsylvania Softball Night.

Olympic softball gold medalist Jennie Finch signs the cast of Manchester’s Alli Sweitzer, 18, on Wednesday at Santander Stadium. Sweitzer pitches for
Olympic softball gold medalist Jennie Finch signs the cast of Manchester's Alli Sweitzer, 18, on Wednesday at Santander Stadium. Sweitzer pitches for the Zions View softball team and broke her leg pitching recently. (BILL KALINA -- bkalina@yorkdispatch.com)

"And it's proving how far we've come in the sport and how there are young women out there involved in sports," Finch said of the turnout when speaking with the media in the press box shortly after showing up at the stadium around 5:15 p.m. "Hopefully I can be a small part of that and encourage them on their journey."

It's why Finch, a 33-year-old married mother of three children, still runs about 10 softball camps a year, makes stops at other softball clinics and participates in several speaking engagements.

"I know there were women before me who didn't have this opportunity. So I always try to capitalize on anything and try to help bring it back to the game and grow the sport of fastpitch softball," Finch said. "And just encourage young females to get involved and stay active and stay physically fit even beyond their youth."

Wednesday wasn't the first time Finch appeared in York. Just five years ago, as part of a National Pro Fastpitch League game held in Bob Hoffman Stadium, Finch actually pitched for the Chicago Bandits against the Philadelphia Force.

Like she did then, Finch again showed her right arm is still strong by tossing out the ceremonial first pitch before Wednesday's game. While wearing a red-white-and-blue jacket from the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, Finch fired an underhand softball to home plate. It was low and outside, but fast enough to scoot by Revs' reliever Bryan Morgado, who attempted to catch the pitch from behind the plate.

The result didn't matter, though. What did were the many smiles Finch put on the faces of thousands of young fans.

Like 11-year-old Jordyn Cooley, a third baseman and catcher for the 12-and-under Hellam Warriors softball team, who brought her mom's old softball for Finch to sign.

"I think it's gonna be really amazing to meet her," Cooley said while waiting in line under a hot sun Wednesday evening. "I've been waiting to come here for a long time."

And Hayley Cisney, a pitcher and shortstop for Franklin Township's 10-and-under team, who will be going into sixth grade this fall in the Gettysburg Area School District.

"I got to shake her hand and got her to autograph a picture and I'm going to put it in a display case," Cisney said.

Finch also grabbed a microphone after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to share some words of encouragement to the 4,988 fans in attendance.

"The sky is the limit. I'm a testament of that," she said. "Just stay true to yourself and shoot for your dreams and go for it."

— Reach John Walk at jwalk@yorkdispatch.com.