12/02/10 10:38 AM EST
New Phillies Ballgirl up to the challenge
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
"It's going to be phenomenal to be out there on the field at Citizens Bank Park in front of 40,000 screaming fans," Haney said. "But I'm a softball player, not a baseball player. I'm going to have to have my brothers hit me some baseballs so I can get used to fielding them."
Yes, being a Phillies Ballgirl does mean she'll have the chance to make highlight-reel plays on foul balls during Phillies games next season, but it also means a lot more, and that's why Haney said she was beyond thrilled to learn that she had been chosen as the final Ballgirl for 2011 after an online selection process that attracted a record of almost 184,000 votes.
"It was overwhelming to say the least," said Haney, a coordinator for new media and marketing for all sports at Villanova University, a former star softball player at Hofstra University in New York, and an aspiring actress who will appear in an upcoming film "How Do You Know" about softball starring Reese Witherspoon.
"The response of people I went to high school and even grade school with, and all my old softball teammates rooting for me -- it all helped. It was just exciting and an awesome experience, and I'm just blown away by the opportunity. I'm going to make the most of it."
She'll have plenty to do.
On and off the field, Phillies Ballgirls are ambassadors for the National League East champions and for the game of baseball. They are educated, athletic and energetic young women with goals of achieving the responsibilities and benefits of being role models in sports for young girls, and they take it seriously, helping out in the community in charity events, including lots of softball benefits, off-field appearances, TV and radio spots.
Haney is another ideal addition to the Ballgirls, according to Phillies manager of community events Michele DeVicaris.
"She had a great background with all the right community aspects to it," DeVicaris said. "Working for a university is another tie to what we do, and it shows that she's used to being in the sports environment and experienced in using that outlet to get involved."
DeVicaris laughed when asked if sometimes it's hard for the Ballgirls to see the bigger picture beyond the obvious reward of being on the field and in uniform for Phillies games.
"I know they want to experience having the best seat in the house, because they're all Phillies fans and that's an amazing benefit," DeVicaris said. "But it always surprises them when they find out what an impact they can have off the field. They never fully understand it until it happens, but they end up finding out that the amazing people they meet and fans and children they have an impact on are really what this is all about."
And with close to 184,000 final-vote tallies in the books, it's clear that the Phillies Ballgirl experience is gaining popularity.
"Never would I have expected that," DeVicaris said of the cyber turnout. "Last year, total votes were 66,000. This year shattered that record. It's great. It's a testament to what the Phillies do and what the Ballgirl program is all about."
Haney will join Moira DiSandro, Leanne McCarron, Samantha McDonald, Jamie Orensky, Maureen Shockley and Samantha Torres as the new Ballgirls for 2011.
"Indescribable would be the perfect word," Haney said. "Phenomenal. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and experience. Once I am out there on that field and doing the things we'll be doing off the field, it's definitely something I'm going to think to myself, that this is 'making it' for me."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.