Got yourself involved with a baseball fanatic, and don't get what is the big deal? Baseball is a great game, but let me help you figure out how to figure it out. I've been there, scratching my head and asking stupid questions. This is what I've learned along the way. --The Girlfriend

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bat Boys and Ball Girls

During a Major League Baseball Game, the television coverage zeroes in on the players, the dugout, and the actual play of the game. But at every game, others help the game run and are an integral part of the game. You, too, can be a member of the team even if you can’t be in the World Series lineup.

I’m talking bat boys and ball girls.

Bat boys are the more traditional of the two. The bat boy is the kid (and sometimes an adult) who is the fetch-em-and-go-fer member of the team. They don’t get to just hang out in a uniform with a big BB on their backs. They work hard. Bat boys look after the equipment for the team. They get the uniforms lined out in the lockers and collect the laundry at the end of the day. They line out the bats and clean the shoes. And of course, during the game, they retrieved tossed bats and stray balls. If you are watching on tv, you often see them darting out between at bats scooping up balls, bats, and various detritus.

All bat boys in Major League Baseball have to be at least 14 years of age. This requirement came after a “hold your breath” episode when Dusty Baker’s, manager of the San Francisco Giants, 3-year-old-son (cute as the dickens in a mini-Giants uniform) almost got clobbered in Game 5 of the 2002 World Series when he went out to home plate to recover a bat. Unfortunately for the little guy, the play wasn’t over yet and a player was running toward home. Darren was scooped out of harm’s way before any collision occurred, but after that, the MLB instituted an age minimum.

Often the bat boy is a teenager or young adult, though a man named Stan Bronson served as "bat boy" for the University of Memphis for over 50 years. They are part of the team, so they also wear a uniform with the initials BB on the back. They work hard and get to the game way before everyone else, but what a cool job for someone who loves baseball! When the players show up for batting practice, sometimes it’s the ball boys who get to shag the flies in the outfield. They carry the balls out to the players and the pitchers. There aren’t a lot of bat girls in Major League Baseball because the position has to move easily in and out of the guys' locker room, and well, let’s just say that’s a little different than an adult female reporter doing interviews in the locker room. Often the bat boys are the ones who stand on the wrong side of the foul line to field foul balls, but more and more teams are using ball girls for that job.

And ball girls rock.

The primary responsibilities of the ball girls during the game are to chase down foul balls and throw them into the stand. Look for them sitting on their chairs tucked next to the walls. Ball girls retrieve fouls so that players don’t have to go chasing balls and they get the fun job of determining who gets to go home with a souvenir baseball. (Trust me, if you are a little kid holding out your baseball glove, you have a much better chance going home with that ball than if you are a drunk college guy waving your beer and shouting, “Hey, baby, I got your balls right here.”)

Seattle has been using ball girls at least since the Nineties. The Texas Rangers are in their second season of using ball girls. And to show the popularity of the program, in this past season, 600 girlfriends showed up in Philadelphia to audition for seventeen positions for the Phillies (Look for them in World Series play when play goes to Citizens Bank Park, ) All the women are long time softball and baseball players and athletes. To be a ball girl for a Major League Team, let’s face it, you usually have to be pretty and young. But just as importantly, you have to be able to think quickly, discern quickly whether the ball is fair or foul, you have to think quickly to get your chair out of the way of a fair ball, you have to be able to field balls hit by Major League Hitters and you have to be able to throw. And trust me, looking at the resumes of the Phillies ball girls, they aren’t slouches (for example, the team this year includes past Captain of Cherry Hill East softball team, a health and physical education teacher, a Division I track scholarship winner, a Penn Varsity Softball player, and a pitching instructor.) Trust me, if someone ever tells you, “You throw like a girl,” look ‘em straight in the eye and thank them for the compliment.

There was a video going around the internet about a ball girl in the minor leagues that is superb. It turned out to be a teaser video of a commercial for Powerade and is staged, but it is still fun to watch and shout, “You go, girl!”

Of course, sometimes in her eagerness, a ball girl misjudges and makes a mistake. A Seattle Mariners’ ball girl named Rosie Santizo gained national attention during a 1998 game against Toronto when she came off her stool and dived after a ball hit into the corner by the Blue Jays' Craig Grebeck. But the ball was fair and Grebeck was awarded a double. However, the Seattle crowd went crazy, cheering the ever enthusiastic Rosie who had worked with the Mariners since she was 16. She was the only ball girl to show up for work wearing wrist bands and baseball cleats. According to Larry Stone in an article about Rosie in the Seattle Times, after leaving the Mariners, she stayed with professional baseball and worked as a cultural trainer for Latin America baseball recruits, teaching English and cultural literacy to players for the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles organizations. She finished her degree at the University of Washington in international business and Islamic studies. and worked for the Seattle Mariners to teach English to such players as Cuban born Yuniesky Betancourt.

Rosie had a big dream for a ball girl—she wanted to be a general manager of a Major League Baseball team. She was working toward this goal by working in Israel with the emerging Israeli Baseball League. Who even knew there was an emerging Israeli Baseball League? Unfortunately, that dream was cut short when she was killed in a car accident in Jordan in September of this year at the age of 29. The Seattle Mariners held a moment of silence before a game in September in her honor. Rosie was a girlfriend to be proud of.

You go, ball girl.

1 comment:

KMDM said...

Thank you for tipping your cap to Rosie! We hardly knew her, but she touched us with her art, love of all people, and the shear joy she shared with us for baseball.