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The Trials of a Ball Girl

Haley King (COM’16): Red Sox gig scores her a World Series ring

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With the crack of a bat, former Red Sox outfielder Daniel Nava sent a line drive screaming down the Fenway Park right field line. While the grounds crew ducked for cover, Haley King instinctively extended her arm and snagged the ball in her gloved hand.

“My natural reaction is to field the ball when it comes toward me, because I played softball,” says Red Sox ball girl King (COM’16), who played outfield on the Terrier softball team as a freshman. “But Fenway Park is tricky. It’s hard to judge balls when they hit off the wall because they ricochet differently every time. There’s no real practice you can do to prepare yourself.”

Many Red Sox Nation fans may covet the access enjoyed by King, but her rewards are earned by demanding responsibilities. King must not only protect fans from errant balls, but also help run pregame ceremonies, offer tips during the ceremonial first pitch, and hand out foul balls to eager fans. Oh, and catch balls hit by professional baseball players.

King learned about the ball girl gig freshman year from a friend who’d heard the Red Sox were hoping to hire ball girls with prior softball experience. She sent in a highlight video of her ground ball skills along with a résumé and was called in for an interview. “I almost passed out when I found out I got the job,” says King, a Worcester native who has been a ball girl for three years. “I’ve been a huge Red Sox fan my entire life.”

Haley King (COM 16) is a ball girl for the Red Sox.

Haley King scored tickets for her family and herself to the legendary game six of the 2013 American League Championship Series and got her own World Series ring, with her name engraved on the side. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

At Fenway, in a role akin to a team ambassador, King shares her love of America’s oldest pastime with both children and adults. Her job (which pays by the hour) starts an hour before game time to prepare for the pregame ceremonies. She is charged with picking the child who leans into the mic at the start of every game and says, “Play ball!” She admits weighing the “cuteness factor,” and looking for those dressed in Red Sox gear and for kids who won’t be shy up on the mound.

Next comes her instructions for the first pitch ceremony: “Don’t step on the foul line. There will be a ball sitting on the mound when you get out there. It’s the game ball—don’t touch it. I will give you the ball you are throwing. And lob it, don’t try to fire it in there.” (That last bit of advice was ignored by actor Mark Wahlberg, who ended up hitting a fan when he threw the first pitch a few years ago.)

Once the game starts, King and a second ball girl take up posts at either the first or third base side. Armed with a glove, a helmet, and a bucket to sit on, she prepares for every hop, liner, foul ball, and pop-up that comes her way.

The worst crime for a ball girl to commit, she says, is interfering with a fair ball. “My rule of thumb is that if I’m on the first base line, I will not move to my right,” she says. “The first base side, the foul ground is very tight as compared to the third base side. If it’s really close and you have to wait to see if the ball is fair or foul, I’ll usually let it go. You don’t want to be booed by 38,000 people.”

Such a moment would inevitably end up on SportsCenter’s “Not Top Ten” list. Fortunately, some of King’s best catches, like the time she came to the grounds crew’s rescue, have been caught on camera and live forever on YouTube. She passes her successful catches to a nearby kid or a fervent fan.

King says the nicest players she has met include David Ortiz, Shane Victorino, Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, and Dennis Eckersley. She scored tickets for her family and herself to the legendary game six of the 2013 American League Championship Series that sent the Red Sox on to play—and win—against the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. And maybe the biggest thrill: she got her own World Series ring, with her name engraved on the side.

And there’s no rule that says the job has to end when she graduates, so if she gets a job in Boston, she may continue.

3 Comments
Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

3 Comments on The Trials of a Ball Girl

  • Matt on 09.14.2015 at 7:48 pm

    That was not Daniel Nava who hit that ball….
    But Haley, you’re awesome!

  • Whitney on 09.15.2015 at 2:12 am

    Haley and Lauren (the other ball girl) make me proud every game. Not many teams trust girls to take the position of being on the field, but I am proud the Red Sox do, and I am proud that my fellow Boston University teammates have the opportunity to make great plays and show that girls can play ball too.

  • BU Today writer Amy Laskowski on 09.15.2015 at 10:20 am

    Matt– you’re right, and it’s because we couldn’t embed the video of the example used in the first paragraph of the text so we went with a different video. Sorry for the confusion.

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