Dear Phillies by Eileen Cunniffe

phillie phanatic looking out to packed stadiumDear Phillies,

I know the deadline for applications for Ballgirl positions for the 2012 season has long since passed, and I know you explicitly asked for a video to support each written application.  But I’m not sure a video would help my chances of becoming a Ballgirl, even if I had the technological wherewithal to videotape myself looking all perky and dodging ground balls while proclaiming the merits of adding me to your lineup.

So please, allow me to introduce myself to you and present my considerable qualifications, based on your requirements, in writing. If you still require a video, I’ll be happy to comply, but I am confident it won’t come to that.

Public relations skills—have you taken communications, broadcasting or public speaking classes?

I would venture to say you’ve never had a Ballgirl with such extensive public relations skills and experience. From my college days as an ambassador for our fair city at the information desk in Philadelphia International Airport through nearly two decades as a public affairs professional for a major international corporation, I’ve seen it and done it all. I may not be your first choice when it comes to posing for photo ops, but I can organize press conferences and photo shoots, write press releases and field media questions. I’ve handled crisis communications and community relations. I’ve planned major events, written speeches for busy executives, produced newsletters and for years was a card-carrying member of the International Association of Business Communicators.

Just don’t ask me to “Tweet,” OK?

Must be athletic—Softball experience a plus 

I have never been accused of being athletic, nor am I likely to be. However, back in the Dark Ages, before Title IX, I did play softball in a girls’ league, in the summers between fifth and eighth grades. As a young adult, I played in pick-up games with work friends. I wouldn’t say I played well, mind you, but let’s be honest about the level of athleticism required to succeed as a Ballgirl. Could I get out of the way of ground balls and fly balls? Absolutely. Would I be able to bend over, pick up a dead ball and hand it to a kid sitting in the first row? Without question. Do I know the difference between a ball that’s in play and one that’s foul? You bet.

Anyone who ever watched me play softball can attest to the fact that I have a real knack for getting out of the way of balls heading in my direction; in fact, I consider this to be my best-honed softball skill.  My favorite softball position was always short field—between second base and right field—because there was always someone else near by to call me off (and mostly, they did). I know it gets a little trickier when you have to simultaneously collapse a folding chair and get out of the way of a ball that’s in play, but please, do not underestimate my instincts for self-preservation. Did I mention I still have a glove? And it’s nearly as good as new.

From my grade-school days with the Kedron Youth Association (in the near suburbs of Philadelphia) I learned that even if you didn’t play well, you could still look good.  Or try, anyway. Girls’ uniforms back then were decidedly ugly—ours featured boxy, short-sleeved, white cotton blouses (which had to be ironed) embroidered with a green “KYA.” The tops were worn out and over—never tucked into—drab green, knee-length shorts (which also had to be ironed). Truly, my Catholic-school uniform was more flattering than my softball get-up. Still, my mother was determined I should look as good as I might for softball, even though I was mostly a bench warmer/cheerleader.  n addition to all the ironing she had to do (my sister was also a bench warmer on the same team), she insisted on setting my hair in pin curls on the eve of every game, ignoring the fact that only a wisp or two had a chance of peeking out from under my stiff green cap.

I am confident the attention to grooming associated with my early softball experience would serve me well as a Phillies Ballgirl.

Knowledge of the game of baseball

I know and love the game of baseball, despite and because of the fact that I am a lifelong Phillies fan. I grew up listening to baseball on the radio—a great way to learn the fine points of the game because it forced me to picture what was being described and allowed me to internalize the rhythms of the game, its sounds, its silences. (Remember when baseball games were punctuated with the sounds of silence?) I still like to catch an entire game that way once in a while, for the memories it evokes—family car rides, static-y transmissions on the beach in Wildwood, and going to games with my grandfather, who watched every play with a transistor radio pressed closed to his ear. I relish the challenge of tuning into a game that’s underway and figuring out, just from the tone of the announcers’ voices, where things stand for the home team before the inning ends and they give me a score.

Once, back in the early 1990s, I smuggled a radio into a fancy dinner with the top brass of the company I worked for. I was supposed to be flattered because I’d been invited to a special banquet for up-and-comers, but really I was annoyed because the Phillies were playing a late-September game that mattered, and I had to keep dashing off to the ladies room, where the reception was really lousy, to check on the score. The guys at my table were glad I was there.

I speak fluent baseball, and I love the language of the game, especially the verbs associated with hitting:  to lace, to line, to loop, to dribble, to squirt a ball into play. It makes me smile every time a broadcaster says the Phillies have “put up a crooked number” in an inning, or better yet (though far less frequently) “put up a snowman.”

I know what it means to hit for the cycle, and what a rare accomplishment that is.  I can recall two perfect games by Phillies pitchers in my lifetime; okay, the first one I can’t exactly recall, and I was out of town for the second one, but my father called to tell me about it just seconds after the final out was recorded. I cannot pretend to have memorized every obscure rule of the game—although I like knowing they are there—but let’s just say you’d never trip me up on the basics.

I remember when Veterans Stadium was brand-spanking new. For all the years that concrete bowl passed for a baseball park, I was mostly a denizen of the zoo-ish 700 level, except for the summer of ’71, when I was a Phillies Straight A student and scored a bunch of free tickets on the 500 level, along with a nifty pencil case, ruler and other school supplies.

Somewhere in my attic I still have the kazoo I played in the late ‘70s as part of a Phillies crowd that made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest-ever all-kazoo orchestra.  I have yellowed news clips from the 1980 World Series that I cannot part with.  I used to go to double headers on purpose so I could watch twice as much baseball in a single sitting.  One of my prize possessions is a two-headed bobble-head figurine of the golden-gloved Richie (Whitey) Ashburn and the silver-tongued Harry (the K) Kalas.

I was present for two of the final three games at The Vet in 2003. I braved snow flurries and raw winds to get my first look at Citizens Bank Park on opening weekend in 2004. I’ve weathered impressive rain delays and scorching heat waves over the decades, endured sunburns and nearly been frostbitten, all to cheer on my beloved Fightin’ Phils—mostly during seasons that were not particularly memorable.  I was proud to be among the faithful in attendance on the fateful day in 2007 when the Phillies recorded their world-leading 10,000th franchise loss.  And I was lucky enough to be there on those two fateful nights in October 2008—I still get goose bumps remembering the thrills and the chills—when we won the World Series in a Game 5 that took about 50 hours to complete.

Flexible schedule—must be willing to work early AM, nights, weekends and holidays

Trust me, if your decision to hire me as a Ballgirl comes down to a question of scheduling, I will clear my calendar and set up a cot in Ashburn Alley if need be.

Must be 18 years of age 

When I first read this on your website, I thought it might be a deal breaker. Then I read the fine print and saw that you meant “at least 18 years of age.” Whew!  I’ve got Phillies t-shirts that are older than 18.  I  mean I was wearing hot pants back when they were new.  Not that I thought the Phillies would be an ageist organization—after all, you hired Charlie Manuel to manage the team when he was already into his second decade as an AARP member. Then you signed Jamie Moyer as a starting pitcher when some people thought he was past his prime. And those moves turned out pretty well for everyone involved, didn’t they?

Anyway, if you’re willing to consider a Ballgirl who is more or less (OK, more, but just by a few years) a contemporary of Jamie’s, I’m your girl. Although we might want to discuss the merits of “Ballwoman” as a more appropriate title.

I hope I’ve convinced you I would make a great Phillies Ballgirl. Again, I know my application is late, but one of those sweet young things you’ve already hired based on her airbrushed photo and her adorable video is bound to suffer a real sports injury some time during the season, and when that happens, I will be ready to step in and fill her cleats.

Phaithfully yours,

E.C.

Eileen Cunniffe in phillies jerseyEileen Cunniffe has been writing nonfiction for 30 years—but the first 25 of those were without bylines, as a medical writer, corporate communications manager and executive speechwriter. In 2005 she began to write her own, true stories. Her essays have appeared (or soon will) in Wild River Review, ShortMemoir.com, SNReview, Ascent, Superstition Review, Prime Number Magazine and Journal of Microliterature; and in the anthologies “A Woman’s World Again” and “Prompted.” Twice her essays have been recognized with Travelers’ Tales Solas Awards. Her prose poems have appeared in 5×5 and The Prose-Poem Project.

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  • Pete

    Well said. (And I will attest to your ability to get out of the way of a moving ball

  • Angie

    Marvelous read, LOL!  I was always proud to warm the bench with my big sister Eileen!  I have my matching kazoo and my own story from the trip across the bridge after the Tastykake giveaway game in the early 70’s.   Am happy to give a reference for Eileen  if Charlie is looking for one. 

  • D M Amoroso

    Just a wonderfully entertaining read!  Loved it.

  • Anne Canny

    Loved it Eileen! It brought back many memories of playing softball and going to Phillies games. Well done:)

  • Bpcfree001

    I witnessed most of your career as a player and agree with everything you’ve written.  well done, as usual!

    Dad

  • Dave G.

    Outstanding!  I love it!

  • Wgaul

    Tremendous !! I am a season ticket holder and you have my vote. At a minimum, when they have those “retro/nostalgia/reunion/walloffame” nights, you should be on the field. As the founding member of the yet to be formed “Goldenball Girls” , I suggest you deserve to throw out the first pitch when Jamie and the Rockies are in town.
    Wayne (sec 115, row 7)

  • Aghipp

    Sure, Ms Cunniffe is brilliantly gifted when it comes to using words as a bat to knock her Ballgirl application “out of the park”, but can she PAINT!!!!

  • I love the way you blend humor, fan knowledge and passion for the game.