A good chance they'll advance

Only 11 turn out at tryouts for Orioles ballboys and ballgirls, but the talent is impressive

March 19, 2006|By NICK SHIELDS | NICK SHIELDS,SUN REPORTER

About 8 a.m. yesterday, Lisa Magness learned from a TV news report that the Baltimore Orioles had scheduled tryouts for ballboys and ballgirls in an hour.

She and her father, John, scoured their home for a baseball glove. By 9:15 a.m., they were in the visitors' dugout at Camden Yards.

Magness, 21, of Severna Park was one of only 11 people who braved the crisp morning winds for the tryouts.

Heather Bressler, in-game entertainment coordinator for the Orioles, said 75 people showed up two years ago for tryouts.

Yesterday's participants will find out whether they made the cut by the end of the month. Two to four people will be selected.

"It was a little less than we expected," Bressler said of the turnout. "But it's not necessarily the size of people here, but the skill and personality of the people who did show up. We were impressed."

Ballboys and ballgirls sit in foul territory and snag foul balls before they roll to the corners of the outfield. Bressler said the pay rate for the job had not been set for the coming season, but it has averaged about $7 an hour.

Magness, a former three-sport athlete at Severna Park High School, waited about 20 minutes before it was time for her tryout.

Orioles officials instructed her to stand in front of a video camera, where she was asked to state her name and why she wanted to be a ballgirl.

"I love the excitement of sports, and I want to be a part of the Orioles," she said.

Wearing an orange shirt, black shorts and her father's baseball glove, which is more than 15 years old, she jogged to a stool in foul territory near the third base line.

It was time to show how well she could field hard-hit ground balls. Eight baseballs were hit to her, and although she hadn't fielded a baseball in months, she scooped up each one that came her way and fired them back to Orioles officials.

"She's always been an amazing athlete," her father said. "She didn't get it from me."

But talent alone doesn't ensure anyone a spot.

Orioles officials held three-minute interviews with each candidate. "They're goodwill ambassadors for the team," Bressler said, noting that ballboys and ballgirls regularly interact with fans. "We like people who are able to hold conversations and who have good personalities."

Magness said she was asked questions about her baseball experience, her availability to attend home games and her favorite Baltimore Oriole - who, she said, is shortstop Miguel Tejada.

"He shows a lot of emotion," she said.

Ernie Tyler, a longtime Orioles umpires attendant who hasn't missed an Orioles home game in more than 40 years, helped judge the candidates. He said he couldn't pinpoint why more people didn't come to try out but insisted, "It's not a lack of interest in baseball."

"It seems to me that there should have been more or would have been more people," Tyler said. "Maybe we picked the wrong day."

Justin Bell, 18, who attends Kenwood High School in Essex, said he's a catcher for his school's baseball team. He said he was "shocked" that more people didn't come out.

"What young adult wouldn't want to shag ground balls for the Baltimore Orioles organization?" he said. "It's like a dream to step out on that field. I don't think it gets much better than this."

nicholas.shields@baltsun.com

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