On Saturday, the Phillies unveiled their new 2007 ballgirls and softball team comprised of Leyden and 10 other women, mostly from the Delaware Valley area. They will field the first-ever Phillies ballgirl softball team while also making public appearances and serving as ballgirls during Phillies games.
Leyden is typical of many of the women on the team. All have an athletic background, either having played softball or another varsity sport in college or high school. Leyden happens to a be a four-year starter at Penn. She'll graduate with a degree in psychology in May, but she can't wait for spring now.
"We definitely did things much differently than we have in the past," said Michele DeVicaris, coordinator of Phillies events. "We had six girls in the past, now we have 14, 11 new girls and the three we have coming back from last year. We want to do things in a totally different way and really get out into the communities. This is our way of doing it. The goal is to raise money for Phillies charities, and see a way that it's possible with charity games against local radio stations, or athletic clubs."
But DeVicaris made sure to mention they were looking and selecting young women who know and can play softball.
"They need to know the game, because it also applies to what they'd be doing out on the field as ballgirls during the game," DeVicaris said. "Softball is a great connection to baseball. We wanted to field a competitive team, but a team that played for fun. We want to be competitive, but not take the fun out of it."
Jamie Battinieri, 23, from Eddystone, Pa., and a graduate of Holy Family University, was a three-year starter on her college basketball team. The 5-foot-10 Battinieri teaches first grade. Two close friends, Bridget Scanlan and Stephanie Frysinger, were former Phillies ballgirls and talked Battinieri into giving it a shot.
Battinieri is happy she did.
"I like sports, and with my schedule as a teacher, this was a perfect opportunity to stay involved with sports, especially being a college athlete," she said. "You still get that team feeling ... it's a great experience. I was looking for a summer job, and you can't beat this."
Then she added, laughing, "My family already wants baseline tickets where I'll be stationed so they can torment me."
Kristine O'Hara, in her third year as a ballgirl, finds herself in a completely new role. As one of three holdovers from last year, O'Hara, a senior at Temple on schedule to graduate in May with a degree in chemistry, finds herself part mentor to the new group.
"The first year I was here, we barely did any appearances, so this is so much more involved. We get out to meet with fans and the Phanatic; I'm looking forward to that," O'Hara said. "Right now, I'm telling the new girls to have fun with the experience."
Where most of the women are either juniors in college or about to graduate, Justine Pletnick finds herself the baby of the bunch, an 18-year-old freshman majoring in physical therapy at the University of Pittsburgh. She was a four-year varsity starter on the softball team at local Villa Joseph Marie, in Holland, Pa. The Levittown native has played travel softball since she was 8.
"I told the Phillies when I applied for the job that this is one of these things that I would do without pay," Pletnick said. "It's so exciting to be around the fans, the people and doing public appearances. I will definitely miss playing softball, but I get to coach a 12-and-under team. I'm really looking forward to being a ballgirl during games. The first game on the field will be an experience I will not forget."
New ballgirls for 2007
Samantha Arnone from Mount Ephraim, N.J.
Jamie Battinieri from Eddystone, Pa.
Jocelyn Brown from Devon, Penn.
Lindsay Brown from Philadelphia, Pa.
Christy Gordon from Stockholm, N.J.
Kate Kennedy from Wilmington, Del.
Katie Laird from Bear, Del.
Teresa Leyden from Irvine, Calif.
Kristin Pisa from Mount Laurel, N.J.
Justine Pletnick from Levittown, Pa.
Debbie Sulecki from Ridley Park, Pa.
Returning ballgirls from 2006
Lindsay Evitts from Warminster, Pa.
Kristine O'Hara from Norristown, Pa.
Jen Scanlan from Folsom, Pa.