So Far, Curl Handling All The Hops As Orioles Ballgirl

June 23, 1991|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff writer

The replica Orioles jersey looks somewhat unusual on a figure standing barely 5 feet 2 and weighing less than 100 pounds.

With her long, sandy-brown hair tied back, and her left hand tucked inside a fielder's glove, 20-year-old Sharon Curl sits on a stool beside the rolled-up tarpaulin at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium.

No number appears across her back, just the word "BALLGIRL" that nearly stretches to both shoulders. The national anthem blares over the stadium speakers, and the first batter steps to the plate.

Thisis where the fun starts.

"I think this is the ultimate job," she says.

Now living in the historic district of Annapolis, Curl serves as the Orioles' alternate ballgirl whenever Perry Hall residents Dana Sperl, 19, and Graziella Bemini, 20, are unavailable.

She also works five or six days a week as a waitress at an Italian restaurant in Annapolis, and attends classes twice a week at Anne Arundel Community College.

But the nights spent at the stadium are "a dream cometrue."

Once voted "Best Actress" while a student at Wilde Lake High School in Howard County, Curl has appeared in numerous theatrical productions in Washington and worked as an extra in the John Waters' movie "Crybaby," filmed in Baltimore two years ago.

"I played a snob for about three months," she said.

Her athletic background isn't quite as extensive, however. She was taught to play softball by herfather, a former Little League baseball coach, and competed on the recreation level.

She can be excused if a few balls elude her graspover the course of the season.

"You just laugh it off, make a joke out of it," she said. "As long as you get out of the way. They're going to boo you more if you interfere with the game. You always have to be ready to grab your stool and run."

Curl has been a baseball fan for as long as she can remember, but she didn't attend her first game until last season.

"Then I started going to all the games," she said. "I saw the ballgirls out on the field and I thought, 'That'swhat I want to do.'"

She mailed a resume, cover letter and black-and-white photograph to Stephanie Kelly -- the organization's coordinator of ballgirls -- and Director of Community Relations Julie Wagner.

"We interviewed one other candidate," Kelly said, "and Sharon came in and she just fit the bill.

"They're all the same height, too. That was a big selling point. It would look odd if you had somebodywho was 6 feet, as opposed to 5 feet. I'm not saying we would discriminate on that basis, but we're better off having them the same height."

Curl's first eight games have been largely uneventful. No bruises on her legs or her ego.

Others aren't as fortunate. In less than two years on the job, Sperl has been victimized by bad hops and bad weather.

"I always get line drives that seem to hit me," she said. "And, yes, I've fallen out on the field, too."

One comical incident last season made highlight reels across the country and was replayed on the nationally syndicated program, "This Week In Baseball."

A sharp grounder outside the third-base line scooted beneath Sperl's glove and ricocheted off the fence behind her before settling in shallow left field. With former Oriole Phil Bradley motioning for her to retrieve the ball, Sperl remembered what she was told about always hustling and sprinted to the outfield.

Unfortunately, she had forgotten about the rainstorm earlier in the day that soaked the grass.

"I just could not stop. I kept going and slipped right down. I'll never forget that," she said.

Neither will Curl. "One of the first things I learned about was Dana's slide," she said.

Sperl taught her new co-worker other lessons, as well -- in a more conventional manner.

"Do not mix business with pleasure. That's the No. 1 rule," Sperl said. "Also, watch the umpires, be alert and don't sit with yourlegs crossed during a game. You have to have your feet down and be ready. If a ball comes, it's going to come quick. You've got to be ready to jump."

The ballgirls are forbidden from giving away freshly retrieved souvenirs to the fans. But that hasn't reduced Curl's popularity, especially with the younger spectators.

"It's great when the little kids like you. They make me feel really good," she said.

"They'll say, 'Can I have your autograph?' or, 'You're so cute, you're so sweet.' That's nice."

Curl admittedly was nervous before her first game last month, fearing the crowd wouldn't respond to a newcomer. The worst-case scenarios passed through her mind.

"I wasn't sure how they'd react, but they welcomed me," she said. "And Dana and Graziella have been real helpful. They've answered all my dumb questions."

Curl worked her eighth game Tuesday night, subbing for Bemini, the veteran of the group with three previous years of experience.

She readied herself beforehand by first listening to "upbeat" musicon her drive to the stadium, then doing some stretching exercises while waiting to change into her uniform inside a tiny room at the Orioles office.

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