A League of their Own
A special Phillies clinic teaches suburban women the finer points of baseball
by Erica Bauwens


Thanks to the Philadelphia Phillies’ recent string of successful years on the field, the team has captured the hearts of many longtime fans who regularly flock to Citizens Bank Park or their favorite watering hole to catch the team in action. It also led to an influx of new fans, especially females who have come to embrace the game traditionally considered to be a man’s sport.


To celebrate local women’s increased interest, the Phillies created Baseball 101, a program designed just for women that attracts everyone from former softball players to active baby boomers. Now held twice a year at Citizens Bank Park, the daylong clinic takes guests through the complete workings of the team, from the training room to the clubhouse, from the press box to the dugout. Attendees are taught the nuances of the game by team personnel including president David Montgomery, broadcasters Chris Wheeler and Gary “Sarge” Matthews, manager Charlie Manuel and other coaches.


At any point on a recent May morning you could find crowds of the 140 women in attendance catching grounders from first base coach Sam Perlozzo, while others worked in the bullpen throwing fastballs beside pitching coach Rich Dubee. Another group worked cameras and the scoreboard from the press box area. The day ended with a silent auction, followed by questions with Manuel and outfielder Laynce Nix, along with tickets for that evening’s game.


“They keep you hopping, but it’s so wonderful,” says Lisa DeJoseph of Wynnewood. DeJoseph was assigned to team Rollins, one of four groups the women followed throughout the day (along with teams Victorino, Ruiz and Hamels). “I’ve always wanted to do this, so finally I told myself that I had to get a ticket and come.”


This was DeJoseph’s first time at Baseball 101, but about half of the women in attendance were returning to relive the experience again. “This is my fourth time,” says Maria Purdy of Havertown. “I had a really great time all the other times, and this time around my friends wanted to come along.”


While some women had a softball background, they were all there to experience a true, hands-on baseball experience. “You get to learn the insides of what goes on rather than just what happened on the field,” says Purdy. “Rather than just try and guess, you learn what goes on.”


“A lot of the women said that a lot of what they’ve learned [about baseball] was from coming here year after year,” says Phillies Ballgirl Rachael Matreale. “A lot of them come because they love baseball and they love the sport and they want to see the Phillies’ side of it.”


For almost all the women, learning the game is the initial attraction, but learning it from the Phillies is the real allure. “I really enjoy baseball and have been a Phillies fan for a while,” says DeJoseph. “A chance to see behind the scenes in the ballpark and with the team was a big reason for me wanting to come in the first place, just to be able to meet coaches and players and see everything that goes on behind camera.”


As the Phillies success has grown over the last decade, women have had the opportunity to grow with the team, expanding their knowledge beyond the basics of the sport. While sitting down to lunch with Montgomery inside the Diamond Club, the women shot out questions like seasoned sports pros, regarding prospective trades, injuries and plays from the past season.


“I thought we were going to come here and teaching the basics, but so many people know so much,” admits Matreale. “More women want to learn about everything. … Baseball is shown to be such a guy’s thing, but there is such a good following by women.”


“Obviously we have a lot of fans and a lot of women fans who really understand the ball game,” says DeJoseph. “There are a lot of knowledgeable women here that know a lot about baseball. It's so amazing to see that, and you’re more comfortable with the women here. We have a lot of things in common so it’s been wonderful. There's been a lot of laughing, and a lot of support.”


“Women know a lot about baseball, I think. Partially I think the clinic helps with that, but I think the fans are just passionate. The women are getting into it all because of their husbands and their family and whatever the game brings,” explains Purdy. “And now my son, he’s 10 and he loves them, and my daughter loves them and now our baby loves them, so it's become a family thing.” 


Third base coach Juan Samuel met the ladies in the dugout, sharing with the women how he gives hitters and baserunners signs, offering the same expertise he affords the many all-stars who make up the team’s roster. “It’s lovely to be able to let them know why we do what we do, why some players play the way they do on certain days. These ladies come to the games and they deserve insight into what we do,” Samuel says. “It’s fun; it’s a nice change of pace from seeing a bunch of guys here.” 


As for the next clinic—slated for sometime in August—women are already clamoring for spots, and with good reason: The first event of 2012 sold out in minutes. “I think it’s a Philadelphia thing,” says Purdy. “When you have a team like we do it's just what it becomes. It’s fun, I love coming here. Next year I’m definitely going to try and get back.”