Feature and Photos Courtesy of the New Haven Athletic Communications Staff
The crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the sound of vendors throughout the stands, the smack of the ball hitting a glove: the sounds of summer at the ballpark!
Those sounds rank among the favorites for former New Haven student-athlete Gabby DeLeo '17 as she hears them day in and day out as one of the 'Phillies Ball Girls', strolling foul territory at Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies. "Being given the opportunity to work for the Philadelphia Phillies as a Ball Girl is truly a dream come true," said the four-year starting second baseman for the New Haven softball team. "It's something I always wanted to do. I still have a bit of shock when I find myself in the amazing situations this opportunity has provided."
A lifelong Philadelphia sports fanatic, DeLeo recalls attending games with her parents and four brothers. "I didn't really have a choice! My family has always been loyal to the teams of this city, and so have I." Of all the sports teams in Philadelphia, the Phillies took precedence in the DeLeo household. DeLeo remembers attending games at Veterans Stadium with family, sitting in the nose bleeds. "My parents would tell us that's where all the real fans sat in order to convince us that they were the best seats in the house." Among her memories, DeLeo remembers waiting after games in a secret spot near the player parking lot, hidden by bushes, where her and her brothers, Nick, Vince, Mike and Ed, awaited their favorites to seek autographs.
DeLeo's fondest Phillies memory comes from the first years at Citizen's Bank Park, spending her 10th birthday with family and friends at the ball park. After a traditional family tailgate prior to the game, Gabby was surprised when her mother, Sheila, arranged for her name to be on the Phanavision video board while having a 'perky' Phillies employee sing happy birthday while showering her in confetti. "The Phillies gifted me with a baseball cap which I still have and wear to this day, and as if the day couldn't get any better, I also created a Philly Phanatic Build-A-Bear.
With softball taking precedence throughout her youth and collegiate career, DeLeo was unable to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a ball girl. However, the opportunity came at the perfect time when she saw the posting on social media for those interested to fill out an online application. After that, DeLeo submitted a resume and skills video before being given a date and time for the in-person tryout on January 10.
About 40 hopefuls were selected for the in-person tryouts where different groups completed the required tasks – an interview, a Phillies/baseball knowledge quiz, uniform fittings, and hitting, fielding and throwing skills tests. For DeLeo, the most challenging portion was the interview session, not because of the stress of answering questions, but due to the interview taking place in the Phillies media interview room where 10 employees peppered her and the other hopefuls with questions. For DeLeo, being in the Phillies media room created a 'fan-girl moment' for the longtime fan.
One of the most rewarding aspects of being a Phillies Ball Girl for DeLeo is engaging with the fans, especially the young girls. "I love being a role model for these little girls. The way their faces light up when I give them a foul ball or my very own baseball card is priceless. It's moments like this that are amazing. It wasn't long ago that I looked up to the ball girls, dreaming of my chance to be on the field with my favorite Philly team!"
For Phillies Ball Girls, it's not just about covering foul territory at Citizen's Bank Park, it's much more than that. The Ball Girls help out in the community as well as numerous other in-game duties including helping with the 50/50 raffle which directly benefits Phillies charities or helping with the Red Goes Green team which is the ball girls environmentally friendly initiative.
Some of the community service events that DeLeo has participated in since becoming a Phillies Ball Girl include volunteering at the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission which is a homeless shelter in Philadelphia and participating in the ALS Phillies Festival. In addition, she has volunteered at the Nemours DuPont and Holy Redeemer hospitals, at local festivals, at the Pete's Sake Fashion Show as well as participating in a Community Softball Game. The later of those events has been the favorite for DeLeo, playing in the softball game against the Hatfield Old-Timers. "The day couldn't have been more beautiful," said DeLeo. "Even with the softball experience of the ball girls, we were outnumbered and outplayed. The Old-Timers beat up on us pretty bad, but they were good sports about it, giving us credit for the fight we put up. After the game, we all enjoyed a big picnic."
Overall, the Phillies Ball Girl experience for DeLeo has been very rewarding. "All I can say is that the more relationships I make here, the greater my chances become of making a lasting impression. I have no doubt that my experiences will help me earn a position where I employ the lessons I learned and the skills I gained during this experience of a lifetime."
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The NE10 is an association of 15 diverse institutions serving student-athletes across 24 NCAA Division II sports. Together we build brilliant futures by embracing the journey of every student-athlete.
Each year, 4,500 of those student-athletes compete in conference championships in 24 sports, making the NE10 the largest DII conference in the country in terms of sport sponsorship. Leading the way in the classroom, on the field and within the community, the NE10 is proud of its comprehensive program and the experience it provides student-athletes.