For the Philadelphia Phillies and Rachael Matreale, it was the perfect fit.
The Phillies were holding their annual tryout for Ballgirls, searching for young ladies with outgoing personalities, an educated background and softball skills to field the position.
Matreale, a senior softball pitcher at Rider, had these qualities and even better, a Phillies family to boot. Unfortunately, though, her support system lost one of its members — Matreale’s grandfather, Jim Matreale, known in the family as Pop-pop — a lifelong Phillies fan who passed away weeks before his granddaughter received thrilling news: she was named a Phillies Ballgirl for the 2012 season.
The Phillies found an ideal addition in Matreale, and as a reward, gave the Matreale family great reason for joy and happiness.
“I called my Mom-mom (Lorraine Matreale), who is our family’s biggest Phillies fan,” Matreale said. “My Pop-pop would have been one of the first people I told because he was so excited that I was trying out.”
Matreale picked up the game of softball at the early age of six. It all began when she started pitching to her dad (Jim Matreale) in their backyard and when she turned eight, Matreale joined her local township league. As she got older, the Williamstown, N.J. native started taking pitching lessons, joined a travel team and played for multiple organizations, eventually propelling her to a college career as a Bronc.
“My parents introduced me to the game and to this day, I still spend summers and winters practicing with my dad,” Matreale said.
Falling in love with softball in her early childhood, Matreale was born and raised a Phillies fan. The right-handed hurler grew up attending Phillies games, and in a family of season ticket holders watching her favorite Phillies became tradition.
When going to games, Matreale took special notice to the girls donning the red pinstripes on each foul line. The Ballgirl position was a dream that Matreale always had interest in, but because of other commitments, trying out never seriously crossed her mind.
After continually seeing advertisements for tryout information, though, Matreale decided that passing on the opportunity was no longer an option.
“I had wanted to try out for the Ballgirl position for as long as I can remember seeing the girls at the games,” Matreale said. “I started seeing all the advertisements about trying out and decided that my senior year, I was going to go for it.”
The first step: help from a teammate and friend, senior Lucy Higgins. The Phillies require a two-minute video that displays your softball talent, intriguing character and ultimately, why you want to be a Phillies Ballgirl.
Higgins, a communication major, lent her friend a helping hand.
“I asked my teammate Lucy Higgins to help me and she put together an awesome video after filming me for a few days,” Matreale said.
After sending in the video along with her résumé and outline of softball accomplishments, Matreale anxiously waited a month before receiving an email stating that she had been selected as one of the 30 girls to move on to ensuing round.
Next step: the extensive tryout and Phillies trivia at Citizens Bank Park.
“The tryout was three hours and the softball part consisted of fielding ground balls, hitting off a pitching machine and a timed run,” Matreale said. “Then there was a written quiz about the Phillies and their history.”
The final step: the interview process. Matreale had to complete an on-air interview with Comcast SportsNet’s Ricky Bottalico and Marshall Harris and other television personalities.
“The interview was definitely the most nerve-wracking part because there was a panel of judges grading you on your public speaking skills and how you responded to the questions and there was a bunch of news cameras filming it,” Matreale said.
The marketing major made the final cut of 15 girls who were chosen for the formal interview, and three weeks later, sitting in her Productions and Operations class, Matreale received a call and voicemail from an unknown phone number.
“I ducked under my desk and listened to the voicemail and it was the Phillies telling me to call them back,” Matreale said. “I basically sprinted out of the classroom and called in the middle of Sweigart [Hall]. They told me I had been chosen and that they wanted to share the good news over the phone.”
Despite the elation, Matreale found her way back to class and shared the news moments later.
“I was stunned and way too excited to sit through class, but went back anyway and started texting my mom and dad right away,” she said. “They both were calling me and I couldn’t answer until class was over but they were both thrilled.”
As a Ballgirl, there’s more to the job than retrieving foul balls and tossing the souvenirs to hollering fans. The position also includes appearances at banquets, charity events, birthdays and much more.
“We make over 150 off-field appearances including TV and radio as well as school visits, nursing home visits, golf and bowling tournaments and fashion shows,” Matreale said. “Most of the job deals with interacting with the public. [The Phillies] want us to be role models in professional sports for children.”
And that’s what Matreale hopes to do. She plans to finish her softball career as Rider’s ace and graduate with a degree in marketing and a minor in the business of sports.
“I know my passion is in sports,” Matreale said. “I really want to work in sports.”
And work for her beloved Phillies — from childhood fan to Ballgirl.