Phillies baseball and women: A love story

From left to right: St. Joseph's University students Erica Savage, Emily Zippilli, Carly Gellrich and Lauren DeLellis at Citizens Bank Park last Sunday. Credit: Charles Mostoller/Metro
From left to right: St. Joseph’s University students Erica Savage, Emily Zippilli, Carly Gellrich and Lauren DeLellis at Citizens Bank Park last Sunday.
Credit: Charles Mostoller/Metro

“I believe in the Church of Baseball,” Annie Savoy says in “Bull Durham.” “I’ve tried all the major religions and most of the minor ones. I’ve tried ‘em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out is the Church of Baseball.”

When Susan Sarandon’s character uttered those words in “Bull Durham,” nearly a generation ago, she was ahead of her time. During the 1980s, women attended baseball games — but not like they do today.

A glance around Citizens Bank Park proves the number of females and males seemed fairly even during the Phillies-Royals game.

More women 50 and older watched last year’s Giants-Tigers World Series than men under 49.

“There’s no reason that men should love baseball more than women,” Alyssa Cromwell, 34, of Northeast Philadelphia said. “To me, it’s a cerebral game. If you’re a thinker, you have to love baseball. There’s the strategy, the history and it’s a beautiful game. I don’t see why women wouldn’t love it. You look around [at Citizens Bank Park] and there are so many women here every game. To me, the appeal is evident. It’s the greatest game. It’s physical, mental and there is just so much to it.”

It’s a family affair for Carol Connelly, 58, of Glassboro and her daughter Kate Connelly, 28, of Center City.

“We went as a family ever since she was a little girl,” Connelly said. “Now this is where we get a chance to meet up to spend a night out. It’s a very social environment here. We get to catch up and just have fun and hopefully watch the Phillies win some games.”

Jan Benetti, 27, of South Philadelphia, tries to visit the park at least twice a month, even though she doesn’t follow the Phillies or baseball faithfully.

“I’m not a crazed fan but I enjoy the atmosphere,” Benetti said. “Maybe that’s why there are so many women at Citizens Bank Park. You don’t have to know every stat or rule. What I know is that it’s fun. You can have a beer, kick back, talk to your friends and watch the action. I love how casual it is. It’s not like football, where every second is intense. It doesn’t matter what gender you are. It’s fun for everyone, whether you’re a man, woman or child. That’s the way it is at the ballpark. Who can have a bad time here?”

It’s a family affair for Carol Connelly, 58, of Glassboro and her daughter Kate Connelly, 28, of Center City.

“We went as a family ever since she was a little girl,” Connelly said. “Now this is where we get a chance to meet up to spend a night out. It’s a very social environment here. We get to catch up and just have fun and hopefully watch the Phillies win some games.”

Phillies players taking notice

The Phillies don’t have tunnel vision to the point they miss who is in the stands.

“You’d be amazed how much we see up there,” Ryan Howard said. “We’re focused on the game, but we notice our fans.”

It’s evident from the field that the players notice that there are strong numbers of females in the crowd.

“You can see that we get a lot of support from women, and that’s great,” Howard said. “It really is awesome.”

It’s not surprising to Jimmy Rollins that there are so many females supporting the Phillies.

“It makes sense to me,” Rollins said. “I grew up with baseball. My mother always loved it. She played softball. My mother is a big reason that I play baseball. Baseball is for women as much as it’s for men. I see the women out there wearing the jerseys, the hats and they’re screaming for us. It’s great. Part of the reason the park has been filled like it has been over the years is because of the female support. There’s no doubt about that. Baseball is something that’s passed down from parents to sons and daughters. It’s a tradition and it’s a beautiful tradition. It’s great to see women and, well, everyone come out to our park.”

Milano lends female star power

When Alyssa Milano started her Touch clothing line, it wasn’t inspired by an opportunity to tap into the burgeoning demand for female-centric baseball items.

“It was personal,” Milano said. “When I would go into the team shop after Dodger games, I would look for new and cute things to buy. I was always disappointed.”

Milano has scored positive feedback from women.

“They just love that a woman is working on clothing in a male-dominated field,” Milano said. “They love the styles and concept in general. A woman would know what a woman likes. Female fashion has been underserved.”

The sultry Milano, who dated baseball players Brad Penny and Barry Zito, has been passionate about baseball since she was a kid.

“I grew up watching baseball while on my dad’s lap,” Milano said. “I think that’s so for a lot of women my age. Now baseball is my escape. Baseball is about family and it reminds me of my childhood. I love being at the park and that’s so for a lot of women. We grew up with it, we love it and we support the game by going out to the park. Baseball is the closest sport to life because anything can happen in a baseball game. The worst team can beat the best team. You don’t know what can happen. It’s exciting every time you go out there. It’s my favorite sport. I think a lot of women agree with me on that.”

Getting in on the action

The Phillies might not sell out every night, but just try getting tickets to the club’s annual Baseball 101 class. The tutorial sells out each time it’s offered at Citizens Bank Park.

“It’s so hard to get a ticket,” said Lynn Martin, of Lumberton, N.J. “But we managed to get tickets [in 2012]. We were lucky and we loved it.”

The Baseball 101 class, which sells out in minutes, features seminars with coaches and players. Women learn the fundamentals and hear what it’s like to be a major leaguer.

“It’s fascinating to hear about what they do,” Martin said. “If you love baseball, you’ll love the class. You get to learn and you get a chance to do some things.”

Women get to hit off a tee in the batting cages near the clubhouse. They also have the opportunity to throw in the bullpen.

Barb Hoopes of Haddon Township, N.J. has managed to score tickets four years in a row.

“I love it,” Hoopes said. “We do something different every year. It was wonderful hearing [Phillies manager] Charlie Manuel [in 2012], who came to speak with us. It was amazing. If you’re a woman, who loves baseball, this is really amazing. You have to do it, if you can get tickets.”

The 14th edition of Baseball 101 is slated for May 30. However, tickets, which are $200, are sold out. The event, which benefits Phillies charities, has raised more than $230,000.

The next Baseball 101 will be scheduled for August. There is no firm date or tickets on sale yet. Check Phillies.com for updates.


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