Ballgirls excited to be part of the action

Ballgirls excited to be part of the action

PHILADELPHIA -- Citizens Bank Park came alive last September, breathing and reeling with each Brett Myers pitch as the final out stood tantalizingly within reach of the Phillies capturing the National League East Division title -- and the team's first postseason berth since 1993.

Huddled in a corner room next to the visitors dugout, where the grounds crew stores its tools, was another team waiting anxiously like everyone else, who at times shared the field with the Phils, and in many ways felt as much a part of what was about to happen as the team on field -- the Phillies Ballgirls.

As soon as Myers recorded that last out, the girls sprang from their little cove, jumping and screaming and sharing the moment with the Phillies and the city that embraced them.

They were more than just a smiling faces sitting on a plastic chair down each of the foul lines, more than a waving and charismatic entourage for the players at autograph sessions. The ballgirls were a part of something special last season, and Sam Arnone wants to feel a part of that magic again this year.

Arnone is back for another season as a Phillies ballgirl, joined this season by a new group comprised of women who are physical therapists, local radio hosts, teachers, coaches and local star athletes.

Arnone didn't know what to expect when she became a ballgirl last season. But she has more than a few memories that will last her a long time.

"I was on the field when they won last year, which is a story I'll be telling for the rest of my life," said Arnone, 20, a physical therapy major at Drexel University. "The players kind of bombarded us with champagne and beer, but we got them back. It was a lot of fun. You really did feel a part of something special last year. We realized we were part of something that hasn't happened since I was six, when they went to the World Series."

Arnone was so caught up in the Phillies' drive to the World Series that she skipped a class to work one of the playoff games against Colorado.

"My professor wasn't too thrilled about it, but I still passed the class and it was well worth it," Arnone said. "I'll always remember being on the field that playoff game."

One of the newcomers is Janita Styles, a 26-year-old mother of two. A track star at Nevada University, Styles moved to the Philadelphia area in 2003 and is a weekend radio host at 100.3 FM The Beat. She's always loved sports, and could not pass up the opportunity to be a ballgirl, though she never had any baseball nor softball experience.

"I wanted to do this because I am a person of the community and I felt when I moved here that the city embraced me, and I wanted to embrace the city back," Styles said. "Even as a new mother (Styles has a seven-month daughter), I wanted to a part of the ballgirls. Philadelphia is ready to embrace a winner, and look at the team we have, back-to-back MVPs Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. But I'll admit it will be a little intimidating being on that field the first time. I'll probably be sweating bullets."

Shawn Casey, 22, a recent graduate of Temple University, is also new this year. Casey has a double dip that any Philadelphia sports junkie might call heaven, as an intern for the Philadelphia Eagles football team, and now as a Phillies ballgirl.

"I thought being a ballgirl would be a great fit for me," said Casey, who's originally from Manchester, NJ. "My love for Philadelphia sports teams comes with the infatuation for the city. The Phillies are going to be a phenomenal team over the next few years and it's going to be great to be a part of it."

The bottom line is having the best seat at Citizens Bank Park. It was enticing to Laura Litzenberger, another of the new ballgirls.

"I spoke to some of the girls who were ballgirls last year and my biggest fear is touching a fair ball; they told us to concentrate on the game," said Litzenberger, a Kutztown University graduate with a degree in elementary education. "The girls from last year said they had the best experience and it was best atmosphere to be in, but that the season goes by so fast and we have to soak it all in. I know I'll be extremely nervous out on that field and being surrounded by all that energy. But I'll also have the best seat in the house being surrounded by the best fans in baseball."

Joseph Santoliquito is a contributer to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.