Deep in the underground tunnels beneath Citizens Bank Park, Terry Ryan stood in a line with about 40 other young women waiting for a shot to become a ball girl for the Philadelphia Phillies.
She looked around at those attending Friday’s tryout and acknowledged that she wasn’t a typical ball-girl candidate.
Ryan is 47 years old and has a 17-year-old daughter who’s nearly old enough to try out herself. But she wasn’t about to let her age stand in the way of her desire to join the Phillies ball girl team.
“If I didn’t go for this, I’d be selling myself short,” she said.
Ryan likely first saw her first Phillies game before the other ball-girl contenders were born. Her father, a Philadelphia Police officer, took her to games at Veteran’s Stadium in her youth and she dreamed of playing major league baseball someday.
“I remember being a kid and staring at the field at the Vet and wishing I could be on the field,” she said. “I still sit and stare at the field and want to be down there.”
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During the tryout, ball-girl candidates were tested with on-camera interviews, asked Phillies facts and trivia and would be judged on their abilities to hit and play the field.
Ryan, a health and physical education teacher at Villa Joseph Marie High School in Holland, Pennsylvania, said she hoped to be able to keep up with the competition.
“I don’t know if I have a real shot, but coming here today at least gives me better than the no-shot that I’d have if I didn’t come down,” she said.
No more than 10 candidates will make the final cut for the available spots as a ball girl for the Phillies next year.
And Ryan faces some difficult competition this year. All of the candidates competing for a spot have athletic backgrounds – mostly in softball. Michele DeVicaris, the team’s director of community and charity events,
Said she had seen some impressive candidates.
“We are looking for that all-around person,” she said. “We aren’t just looking for softball players, they need to have a good personality, too… But, they need to be active and agile so they can get out of the way of the ball.”
In addition to taking the field with players, the Phillies ball girls take part in regular softball, golf and bowling charity events, as well as making school and nursing home visits throughout the year.
Carly Histing, 20, of Sicklerville, New Jersey, a student at Widener University, said being a ball girl would mean mixing two of her passions – charity and sports.
“I love sports, but, I want to combine my passions,” she said. “The on and off the field experience will be great, but it’s also a lot about giving back.”
For Madison Lee, 18, of Windsor, Connecticut, a student at Temple University, signing up to be a ball girl was something of a whim. But she said that as an African-American woman, she would see it as an opportunity to support the community and bring diversity to the ball girls.
“Back home (in Connecticut) I was really involved in my community,” said Lee. “But, I also see this (baseball) as something that isn’t dominated by African Americans…Being an African American woman in baseball is not the norm, it’s not something typical. I want to represent something bigger.”
After the tryouts, there will be a round of call backs to whittle down the pack to the final seven to 10 that would join the team, DeVicaris said,
Even then, she said, the candidates might not know until opening day who made the cut. Those who are selected will train with the team before taking the field during a real game.
“It’s a learning experience,” said DeVicaris. “We don’t just put anyone right out there.”