As summer approaches, many people will seek jobs at an ice cream stand or children's camp. A few South Jersey women, however, looked to baseball for summer employment: They're among the new Phillies ballgirls this season.
Katie Haughey of Medford is a first-year health and physical education teacher at Harrington Middle School in Mount Laurel. One of many teachers who wanted to spend their summer off chasing foul balls in Citizens Bank Park, Haughey recalled how ecstatic she was to hear she had been chosen.
"I got the call at school and jumped up and down and screamed in front of my kids. They probably thought I was nuts!" she wrote recently in an e-mail.
Ballgirl tryouts last November weren't simple. "I didn't really know much about the whole process," said Alison Augustyn of Riverton, who learned about the position on the Phillies Web site. "I didn't realize it was this competitive."
More than 600 women tried out; 100 were called back.
"Tryouts were so scary! Our tryouts consisted of hitting, fielding, and an on-camera interview with Scott Palmer," Haughey wrote.
Ten rookies were chosen, including four women from Burlington and Camden Counties. They join seven ballgirls who returned from last year.
Elena Medina, a physical education teacher at Pennsauken Intermediate School and a Cherry Hill resident, comes to the job with softball experience. "I like softball - played for years," she said.
An upbeat person, Medina heard about the tryouts on the news during breakfast one morning. "I'm not afraid of crowds, so I figured I'd use my enthusiasm," she said, explaining her motivation.
Her students are excited for her. "All of my kids think I'm famous," Medina laughed.
Christy Oakes of Haddonfield, a fourth-grade teacher at Evans Elementary School in Marlton, has had a similar reaction at her school.
"When I come in in the morning, they're always asking me if I was at the game last night. . . . They're excited for me, and they'll wear their Phillies jerseys to school and show their Phillies pride," she said.
"I would say this is the perfect summer job for a teacher," Oakes said.
Although a lifelong sports fan like the other women, Augustyn has a very different type of day job.
Love of math led her to engineering. She will graduate in June from Drexel University with a bachelor's degree in environmental engineering. She already works full-time with Environmental Resolutions in Mount Laurel. Although she doesn't have the summers off, she said, "My work is really flexible, and everybody here is really excited for me to have this job. I'm really, really busy, but that's how I like it."
Being on the field is a lot of fun, all four said.
"I was nervous when I started training, but as soon as I got my first foul ball, all of the nervousness went away," Augustyn said.
Haughey e-mailed, "The best part about working on the field is when you can give a foul ball to a smiling kid."
Augustyn estimated that she does four to eight Phillies events per month, including games and other appearances. How much ballgirls work depends on when the Phillies play at home, since the ballgirls don't travel with the team. They are paid $50 to $75 per event, although some charity appearances are voluntary.
"I'm really looking forward to the softball tournaments that we're going to be playing in the summer," Medina said. The women play area school teams, such as Pitman Middle School, which is on their schedule for May 27. They also will take on other Philadelphia sports squads, including the Eagles Cheerleaders, 76ers Dance Team, and Flyers Ice Girls. Proceeds will go to charity.
This month, the ballgirls are supporting the Phillies' effort to "go green." During home games, they will walk around the stadium collecting recyclable bottles. "It is for a really good cause and I can't wait to help out with that!" wrote Haughey.
These four local ballgirls already have had a great time and look forward to the rest of the season.
"I hope I represent the Phillies well and have fun while I'm at it," Medina said.