Newark’s Gina Papili is the First State’s first Phillies ball girl. Find out how she made a superstar slugger smile.
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Now fielding for your World Champion Philadelphia Phillies: Gina Papili.
Ball girl Papili, a cult celebrity among Philly sports obsessives, returns this month for her second season of shagging foul balls for the Series champs. Papili, a nursing student at the University of Delaware, is the first and only ball girl from Delaware.
The 20-year-old former three-sport athlete at St. Mark’s mailed a resume on the last possible day last winter, then survived a gauntlet of tryouts to emerge from a field of more than 1,600 applicants.
Her softball skills and vivacious personality won the job. It helped that she’s fast on her feet.
“The ball comes flying at you and you have two seconds to react,” she says. “Either field it or get the hell out of the way.”
The ball girls’ primary responsibility is to catch foul balls during games. They usually toss the ball to a young fan in the stands. They also tidy up the bullpen after a pitching change and participate in team events and charity softball games throughout the season.
It can be terrifying, Papili says, to field foul balls with 40,000 pairs of eyes watching, plus thousands more tuning in on TV.
“You have no idea,” she says. “I’m there for the fans, too, and there have been close calls where I get so into a conversation with a fan, I almost miss the ball. So you have to field the ball and look good doing it.”
Papili, who lives in Newark, fielded more than fouls last year. Smitten fans and a few screwballs lob pick-up lines at her constantly.
She even mesmerized Manny. In Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, Papili caught the gaze of Los Angeles Dodgers’ star outfielder Manny Ramirez. The moment—Papili in mid-stride jogging across the field, the grinning Ramirez in a full-on stare—was captured on camera and quickly made the rounds on Philly sports blogs.
“I have that picture framed,” Papili says. “That’s going to be cool to have when I’m older.” —Matt Amis
Page 2: First State Phillies, Part II | PR guy Larry Shenk experienced the best of both worlds during the Fightin' Phils' World Series season.