The 2022 Phillies ball girls squad

For most diehard fans, the idea of being on the field during a Phillies game and watching the players up close is a fantasy.

For Phillies ball girls, it’s a reality. Add to that experience an electric playoff run to the World Series, and it’s a dream come true.

“I’ve had faith in the team from the beginning,” said current ball girl Emily Lucier, 21, also a senior at St. Joe’s University. “Seeing the team get better and better and more determined through each game to get even closer… It’s just an amazing experience to be there for all of that.”

In addition to collecting foul balls at home games, the team of 19 young women can also be found around the stadium selling 50/50 raffle tickets for charity, and at dozens of off-field appearances, where they serve as ambassadors for the baseball team. It’s a lot like being an Eagles cheerleader or Sixers dancer — except you have to be able to catch a ball tipped off the bat of a professional slugger.

Ahead of the first World Series game in Houston, Billy Penn spoke with a handful of current and former Phillies ball girls.

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They’re all lifelong fans of the team, and former softball players with a passion for the game. They all said the job has only made their fanhood more intense, and they all had raspy voices from shouting their lungs out on Sunday, when the Fightins clinched the NLCS.

The ones who are active this season still seem shocked at their good fortune, for landing a spot in the organization during a World Series season after an 11-year playoff drought. Former Phils ball girls can’t help but be envious — but they’re not mad.

“It was the best two years of my life,” Golebiewski said. “But now we’re in the World Series so I’m like, maybe this is the best year.”

Ballgirl Emily Lucier prepares for a game on the field. Credit: Courtesy Emily Lucier

Surreal, but not surprising

The ball girls — yes, they’re women, but the terms ball boy, ball girl and ball kid has generally stuck in a variety of sports that require a person to scoop up duds — knew there was something magical about this team.

“We’ve seen firsthand just how hard the team has worked to get where they are,” said Jamie Deni, 24, a first-year addition to the squad.

Ball girls are paid $50 per Phillies game, $75 non-game events and $35 for softball games.

Tori Golebiewski, 27, who was a ball girl in 2015 and 2016, echoed that sentiment, noting that it’s been a process building up to this year’s championship team. “Being a ball girl you see that background. You see the people working all day every day to make that stadium run, to make the team who they are.”

When she was working games, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels were still Phillies.

“It has been such a long process to get to where we are today. So many people have doubted the Phillies this year, but they came out, and we’re going to the World Series,” Golebiewski said.

Those doubts weren’t unfounded, of course. The Phillies were racking up losses in the spring before bench coach Rob Thomson took over as interim manager midseason.

“Being Phillies fans, we’re familiar with ups and downs,” said Nora Denton, 22, a second-year ball girl and recent Temple University grad. “Toward the end we were having way more ups and you could just feel the optimism.”

Nora Denton’s sister, Mairead Denton, was a ball girl in 2018 and 2019. On Sunday, she watched the victory on TV, surrounded by a group of friends — of whom she’s the most serious fan.

“I was holding back tears a little bit,” said 24-year-old Mairead, “because I knew my sister was there experiencing it.” She admits to being a little jealous, but is mostly just excited. “If we were to win the World Series, Nora would get a ring. I just want that for her so badly.”

Like many Phillies ball girls, Jamie Deni is a lifelong fan of the team and a longtime softball player. Here she is as a child. Credit: Courtesy Jamie Deni

Some of the women noted they were just kids last time the Phillies won the World Series, or even made it to the playoffs.

Camryn Glenn, a 24-year-old grad student at Temple and first-year ball girl, remembers the 2008 World Series win well. “When Brad Lidge threw that pitch and dropped to his knees… I have such a vivid memory of that, even as a 10 year old,” she said.

This postseason, she said, has been one unforgettable moment after another.

“I feel like I peak every single night I’m there,” Glenn said. “When Bryce Harper hit the home run I remember all of us were jumping up and down and screaming.”

For Megan Yocum, 33, a 2014-2015 ball girl who now works full-time in public relations, Sunday’s game was actually the first time she attended a playoff game in person, since the Phillies didn’t reach the postseason during her tenure.

“The rain had finally stopped, the crowd’s energy returned, and my heart was racing,” Yocum said. “Once ‘Dancing on my Own’ began playing, I even started crying. I couldn’t believe that I got to watch my favorite team win the game that’d send them to the World Series.”

It’s about the fans

While the on-field moments shine bright in their Phillies memories, the ball girls agreed resoundingly that the most meaningful part of their experience was connecting with young fans. They interacted with children not just at the stadium, but at school visits, community events and charity activities.

“It was incredibly fulfilling to see the impact we could make with them,” said Yocum.

Glenn made note of the view from the dirt — not just of the game. “When you’re on the field you’re really looking at the fans… you can see how the people in the stadium love the team and love the sport,” she said.

Ball girl Emily Lucier with one of her fans. Credit: Courtesy Emily Lucier

They all recalled how the children, especially girls who play softball, “light up” upon meeting the Phillies ambassadors. The ball girls are their idols, sometimes as much as the players.

Deni, the current first-year ball girl, was caught by surprise when she saw a photo of President Joe Biden posing with a young girl at a home game — with Deni’s ball girl card in hand. “She was posing with Joe Biden and holding up my ball card as though I was the star,” she said.

Those experiences will stick with them, regardless of who wins the World Series.

“I’ll be happy whatever the outcome is. We’ve come such a long way this season,” said Lucier. “It’s just like we’re part of the team.”

Yocum, whose second year as a ball girl was the Phillies’ worst season in over 40 years, said she still wouldn’t change a thing about her experience. She told her younger successors: “Be fully present in every moment. Notice the way the dirt feels, the way you seemingly tune out the sound of the crowd and lock into what’s happening with every pitch, the twinkle in the kid’s eye when you hand him a foul ball.”

“The time goes so quickly,” Yocum added, “but all of the moments, big and small, will stick with you fondly for years.”