New Castle News
NEW CASTLE —
There is no sweeter fantasy than stepping foot on a big league field for most kids growing up.
Imagining yourself in uniform, with your glove and spikes ready to go is the stuff kids fall asleep dreaming about.
For most, that dream never comes to fruition. But for local resident Anjelica Diehl, it’s an everyday reality.
Diehl, 23, a resident of New Galilee, is a “ball girl” for the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. She may not get to step between the lines on a regular basis, but she still gets to wear a uniform, dust off the spikes and flash her leather glove during most home games.
When the Pirates decided to switch from ball boys to ball girls a few years ago, Diehl was in the right place at the right time. Her softball coach at Geneva College, Van Zanic, made the announcement and Diehl jumped at the opportunity. She aced the interview process and was on her way to PNC Park shortly thereafter.
The Pirates web site describes the Pirates Ball Girls as “13 local college student-athletes who excel in the knowledge of the game of baseball and have the personality to be ambassadors to our fans.”
Diehl’s duties vary on game day and while her baseball/softball skills are put on display throughout the game as she tracks down foul balls along the base lines, much of what she does is actually interacting with the public.
“We have to be somewhat familiar where different locations are at the ball park in order to point fans in the right direction. We also have responsibilities at PirateFest that is held each winter. On Sundays, we can also be found outside of the stadium running the kids bounce house or obstacle course,” Diehl said.
Throughout the years, baseball blooper reels have been filled with the misadventures of ball boys and girls as they misplay a grounder, accidentally grab a fair ball or possibly take a crash on the job in front of the world. Not the case for Diehl so far, who is in her fourth year as ball girl.
“I have never grabbed a fair ball. It does however make me nervous when it is close. I always remember to look for the umpire to give the sign of fair or foul before I make any decisions.”
That doesn’t mean the job is easy.
“The worst balls are the ones that bounce off the side wall. It is difficult to judge where they will go: it will either continue to run along the wall or it will bounce off and go toward the field. If you happen to misjudge it, chances are you will be chasing it out into the field to get it,” Diehl lamented.
“Those are the worst because it feels as if the game is on pause until the ball is retrieved!”
When Diehl catches a foul ball, there is the issue of who in the stands will get to keep it. That may be the hardest part of the job.
“I get offered bribes all the time for balls. Although I never accept, I think it is really funny how desperate people are for a foul ball. I see adults sometimes fighting over it instead of giving it to a child.” Diehl said. “It is difficult sometimes to decide who to give the ball to. It always seems to be somebody’s first game or birthday. We are told to mainly give the ball to Pirates fans and kids under age 12.”
Diehl recently graduated from Geneva College and even more recently got married to husband, Andrew. While working at PNC Park is her dream job, she also works as a TSS (Therapeutic Support Staff) with Autistic and ADHD children in local schools, as well as at Sims Lanes in Beaver Falls. To top off her busy schedule, she is a full-time student working on her Masters Degree in School Counseling at Slippery Rock University.
While her plate is certainly full, she has no plans on giving up her job at PNC Park. “I absolutely love my job. It is an honor to hold this position.”
In her position, Diehl is able to sometimes interact with the Pirates players. These days, everybody’s favorite Pirate is center fielder, Andrew McCutchen. Diehl noted about the star, “He is a very nice guy, as well as humble.”
On Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, Diehl noted, “Hurdle is amazing. He sometimes waves to me as I walk by the dugout. He is very personable and caring. I actually have a signed picture of Clint that my dad got for me that says, ‘You are my favorite ball girl.’ ”
While working on the field at PNC Park certainly is a dream, Diehl is not letting the moments pass her by.
“These things are so neat to me because it is something that I will have for the rest of my life. The memories are irreplaceable.”