Pretty Catchy

Newark’s Gina Papili is the First State’s first Phillies ball girl. Find out how she made a superstar slugger smile.

Photograph by Luigi CiuffetelliNow fielding for your World Champion Philadelphia Phillies: Gina Papili.

Ball girl Papili, a cult celebrity among Philly sports obsessives, returns this month for her second season of shagging foul balls for the Series champs. Papili, a nursing student at the University of Delaware, is the first and only ball girl from Delaware.

The 20-year-old former three-sport athlete at St. Mark’s mailed a resume on the last possible day last winter, then survived a gauntlet of tryouts to emerge from a field of more than 1,600 applicants.

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Her softball skills and vivacious personality won the job. It helped that she’s fast on her feet.

“The ball comes flying at you and you have two seconds to react,” she says. “Either field it or get the hell out of the way.”

The ball girls’ primary responsibility is to catch foul balls during games. They usually toss the ball to a young fan in the stands. They also tidy up the bullpen after a pitching change and participate in team events and charity softball games throughout the season.

It can be terrifying, Papili says, to field foul balls with 40,000 pairs of eyes watching, plus thousands more tuning in on TV.

“You have no idea,” she says. “I’m there for the fans, too, and there have been close calls where I get so into a conversation with a fan, I almost miss the ball. So you have to field the ball and look good doing it.”

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Papili, who lives in Newark, fielded more than fouls last year. Smitten fans and a few screwballs lob pick-up lines at her constantly.

She even mesmerized Manny. In Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, Papili caught the gaze of Los Angeles Dodgers’ star outfielder Manny Ramirez. The moment—Papili in mid-stride jogging across the field, the grinning Ramirez in a full-on stare—was captured on camera and quickly made the rounds on Philly sports blogs.

“I have that picture framed,” Papili says. “That’s going to be cool to have when I’m older.”  —Matt Amis

 Page 2: First State Phillies, Part II | PR guy Larry Shenk experienced the best of both worlds during the Fightin’ Phils’ World Series season.


Larry Shenk

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First State Phillies, Part II

PR guy Larry Shenk experienced the best of both worlds during the Fightin’ Phils’ World Series season.

Delaware’s closest tie to the world champion Philadelphia Phillies isn’t on the field. It’s Wilmington resident Larry Shenk.

Shenk, 70, the Phillies’ longtime public relations guru, entered semi-retirement after the 2007 season, but remains with the team as an advisor and assists with alumni relations and events coordination. He also writes a weekly blog for called Phillies Insider.

“I’m not involved with the day-to-day media hassles like I used to be, which has improved my blood pressure,” he says.

DT: So your first season with the Phillies was 1964 (when the team orchestrated a historic late-season collapse). That’s like being the first man on board the Titanic.

LS: I was a huge Phillies fan, and we were in first place, so [the feeling was] don’t bother me with the World Series details. Next thing you know, it was all over, and we painfully lived though that. Hopefully the 2007 Mets took us off the pressure cooker.

DT: How has your field changed over the years? Are we to the point of complete media saturation in sports?

LS: When I started, it was a newspaper world. TV came around once in a while. Over the course of time it’s evolved, and I guess the biggest change is the Internet. There are so many websites out there and professionals who write blogs and fans who write blogs. I like to think that if the Internet was around when I was 22 years old, I would have been doing that.

DT: The Phillies definitely have a sordid history. Did the World Series last season bring it full circle for you?

LS: We’ve been part of this community since 1883. No other sports franchise can match that, and there aren’t many businesses in this country that can match that. And yes, we had a very bad past, but that is behind us. Since 1971, we have a winning record.

How did you celebrate the World Series?

LS: My wife and I went to every game, home and road. So I was more of a fan than I ever was because the previous World Series we were in, I’d be in the press box from 9 a.m. till after midnight. Last year at Citizen’s Bank Park, I was sitting in the Hall of Fame Club with my family and I was cheering, which I could never do before. I was more nervous than I ever was before—I even cursed a few times.

 Page 3: First State Phillies, Part II, continues…


DT: Do you rub elbows much with the current players these days?

LS: Not as much. They still know me, but a new player would have no idea who I am because I’m not around as much. Players need to become familiar with you and, the position we were in, you had to be around them all the time. So you weren’t always asking them to do something, but when you needed them, they knew it was important.

Was dealing with the players and the Philly sports media ever a headache?

LS: You’re in the middle of the road. You work for the organization but our job is to try to accommodate the media and sometimes that’s very challenging. Philadelphia is a very aggressive media market, similar to Boston and New York. It keeps you stepping. But I think it wore me down a little bit in the later years. I often kidded that you need round shoulders for this job, so that any problems would roll off. It got to a point where things didn’t roll off my shoulders anymore. I turned 70 in September, and it was a good time to step down and spend more time with my wife, my family and my grandkids, who are all still in Wilmington.

DT: Who were the great interview subjects throughout the years?

LS: You had Pete Rose, who was the most PR-conscious player around. Mike Schmidt was hot and cold with the media, then you had Lefty (Steve Carlton), who was the most cooperative player I’d been around until Rose. The 1993 team was a bunch of characters. Darren Daulton was a great help at corralling players for the media. The biggest pain I ever dealt with was John Kruk. He was great when he first came, but then he became a pain. He knows it and we’ve talked about it. And now he’s in the media and he’s very good. Baseball players are humans, and people don’t always realize that. They have their problems and joys like the rest of us. Their wallets are just thicker.

DT: How did you land in Delaware?

LS: I worked for The News Journal in 1962. I had been in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, writing general reporting and news for the Daily News. I learned a lot about journalism in Wilmington. But the Phillies job opened up, and it was right place, right time. I learned very early that I wasn’t the smartest guy in the business, but I made a vow that nobody would outwork me.

DT: Do you find Delawareans are pretty on the ball with regard to the Phillies?

LS: Yeah, Bob Carpenter owned the team when I joined the organization. The DuPont Company would always run trains up to Connie Mack Stadium to get Delaware fans up there. Dallas Green, Chris Short are from Delaware. Ruly Carpenter and I were hired by the Phillies on the same week, him in accounting, me in PR. In 1972 he became president and I was still in PR.

DT: Who’s the best sportswriter in the business?

LS: I’ve been around so many of them. Bill Conlin was a great baseball writer when he was younger. Rich Hoffman writes very good things, gets both sides involved, and grasps what others don’t.

How satisfying is winning the World Series?

LS: Back in the middle of the 70s, we had a good team, made the playoffs a couple times, but couldn’t win the whole thing. Chris Wheeler at the time said the only way to shut people up is to win the whole thing. So it is a sense of satisfaction. It blows my mind that we were 7-0 at home in the playoffs. You look at this team, we probably have the greatest shortstop in team history, the best second baseman, the best first baseman and a young pitcher with a chance to join the team’s all-time elite. The quality in that clubhouse, they’re all great guys. Charlie deserves a lot of the credit. And the parade was great. I rode on the float with the trophy, and let me tell you, this one blew 1980 away.  —Matt Amis

 Page 4: Biden Time | A monthly review of the veep


Biden Time

A monthly review of the veep.

Joe pays a surprise visit to Taliban territory in Afghanistan to talk about drug trafficking and terrorism. A diplomatic mission? More likely a tune-up for life in D.C.

At a tribute to Ruth Ann Minner, Joe says, “Everything about you has been about life, preserving it, and opportunity.” Was he talking about the former governor’s political career or her appointment of Ted Kaufman to Biden’s old Senate post as a seat-warmer for Beau?

The big boss shot Joe the stink eye when Biden made light of John Roberts’ oath-of-office gaffe. “My memory is not as good as Justice Roberts’—Chief Justice Roberts,” the veep quipped.  That’s our Joe.

 Page 5: Cutting Up with Joe the Barber | When you sit in Joe Pacello’s chair, you’re guaranteed two things: a great haircut and lots of laughs. You might even meet the veep.


Pacello takes a little off the top for former Governor Russ Peterson. Photograph by Joe del TufoCutting Up With Joe the Barber

When you sit in Joe Pacello’s chair, you’re guaranteed two things: a great haircut and lots of laughs. You might even meet the veep.

Only Joe Pacello would try to convince a Secret Service agent he’s mafia.

Pacello, the quick-witted proprietor of The Men’s Room barbershop in Greenville, did just that last winter when then-vice president-elect Joe Biden stopped in for a trim.

“The first guy through the door is 6-foot-5 with a shaved head. Secret Service,” Pacello recalls. “Then the door opens and Joe walks in. Joe says to the agent, ‘He’s in the family.’”

Pacello launched into a “Goodfellas”-type routine that would make De Niro proud. Biden joked that he’d make Pacello secretary of defense.

“‘You don’t make an Italian secretary of defense,’” Pacello says. “‘You make them secretary of offense.”

The three-chair shop can quickly become a three-ring circus when Pacello starts his shtick. The 66-year-old has operated The Men’s Room at the same location for 35 years. He regularly logs du Ponts, former governors and other celebs in his appointment book. The VP, of course, is Pacello’s star client. The two Joes met in the early 1970s when Biden took his sons in for a cut. He has been a regular ever since.

“Once he was nominated, I got calls from all over the country,” Pacello says. “I told Joe, ‘I hope as many people are talking to you about me as they are talking to me about you.’”

Pacello says Biden plans to remain a regular, despite the fact that he’ll be spending most of his time in D.C. “Joe says he has to keep coming here because we know too much about him.”    —Drew Ostroski

 Page 6: Mr. Green Genes | Nothing stops the man behind St. Patty’s partying in Wilmington. It’s in his blood.


Kelly marches in Smyrna’s parade last year.Mr. Green Genes

Nothing stops the man behind St. Patty’s partying in Wilmington. It’s in his blood.

Every March, Patrick Kelly dons his robes and mitre and transforms into a Delaware legend—Saint Patrick, the central figure of Wilmington’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Kelly, along with the Irish Culture Club of Delaware, has organized the event for the past 34 years. He’s built floats and miniature Irish cottages, and he’s painted countless green lines down King Street.

He’s back this year, and he’s marching rain or shine. In 1993, when a blizzard dumped 18 inches of snow, Kelly went on with the show—alone. The local ABC affiliate was on hand to report on the storm when Kelly knocked on the news van window and asked reporter Lauren Wilson to move so his parade could proceed.

Such pluck has made him a celebrity. He’s regularly invited to other events, including the new Smyrna Parade, where he marched with the Irish band the Auld Stars. “We had so much fun with those people, just dancing and carrying on in the street,” he says.

Kelly’s duties include soliciting marchers and sponsors. He orders special mugs and enough brew to satisfy a parade, which, on St. Patty’s Day, tends to be a lot. Kelly drinks, but not too much. “You’ve got to use a little sense when you’re responsible for the parade,” he says. “There’s plenty of time later on to drink and act like an idiot. I’m pretty good at doing that, too.”

Join Kelly on King Street March 14 starting at noon. —Matt Amis

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