Phillies a big hit with women fans

Kerstin Thompson and her mother, Pam Stitely, dressed to show their support for the Phillies at Saturday's game against the Giants. "My dad got me started," Thompson said of being a Phils fan.
Kerstin Thompson and her mother, Pam Stitely, dressed to show their support for the Phillies at Saturday's game against the Giants. "My dad got me started," Thompson said of being a Phils fan.
Posted: October 19, 2010

Part of the draw, no doubt, is the team itself. These Phillies are a bunch of really nice, good-looking guys of all stripes who come from behind, pitch perfect games, talk about things like courage and friendship, run through coaches' stop signs, and seem to genuinely like one another.

"They seem so sincere," said Joan Malseed, 54, of Fishtown. "They're not hotshots. I think that is why we're all drawn to them. There's no scandals."

Whether handed down in close-quarter rowhouses in sports-drenched city neighborhoods, embraced as a regular college ritual, or gravitated to with age, Phillies officials and ballpark regulars can attest: the serious female baseball fan has entered the mainstream in this town.

"I fight with the guys at work all the time," said Lauren Sheridan, 26, of Magnolia, sitting at the edge of the open trunk of her Jetta, in the thick of the tailgating Saturday with pal Jennifer Carlin, 28.

"We revolve our daily lives around it," said Carlin. "It's definitely an addiction."

And while the to-a-player first-blush sex appeal of the Phillies surely has not faded - "Jayson Werth stretching in the batting cages" is a perennial YouTube video favorite among women fans - these players have proven themselves worthy of a long-term relationship.

"I think the older females get, the more interested they get," said Linda Risposo, 51, of Fishtown, who participates in postgame banter with male coworkers at Home Depot. "I feel like I'm an old lady. All I do is watch baseball, and it's not just the uniforms anymore. It's the talent."

The daily addiction of baseball fandom has caught on, especially with young women, who Phillies officials say have taken to the team in a major way. Most grew up playing organized sports.

"We follow hard-core, like the guys," said Amanda Stokes, 20, of Abington, a fashion marketing major at the Philadelphia Art Institute. "The Phillies are part of the culture of Philadelphia. I grew up with it, wanted to be a part of it."

Part of the draw is also Citizens Bank Park itself - with its social ambience and cheap standing-room tickets. Phillies officials say the park has drawn increasing numbers of women since opening in 2004.

In the final inning of Sunday's game, the loudest voice from the standing-room area behind Section 130 clearly belonged to Kristy Aggalane, 28, a nurse from Northeast Philadelphia, so loud that a male fan turned around and said, "Shut up!"

"You shut up," she fired back before continuing her "Come on Ryan" chant, leaning over the railing, her husband's arm around her, her mother-in-law on the other side, as Ryan Madson closed out the game.

"She is a very devoted fan," Pat Aggalane said of her daughter-in-law, an Iraq veteran. "She's something."

From a recliner in the living room of her rowhouse (with a Phillies "P" garden sign stuck in her mum plant), Joan Malseed watches every game with her white Maltese. Her son's involvement in sports led her to the Phillies' promised land.

With her son now grown, following the Phillies provides a way to keep close, an organizing principle in a mother-son bond. "My son and I keep texting each other during games," she said. "He's like, 'yea we clinch tonight," I text back, 'sweet.' It's nice for a mother and son."

Many women fans say they learned at the foot of their fathers, with the Phillies an enduring and poignant bond.

"My dad got me started," said Kerstin Thompson, 31, who grew up in Media and flew in from Charlotte, N.C., to attend Saturday's game with her mother and father. She got a scorebook at a Phillies event as a child and has been keeping score ever since. Her mother, Pam Stitely, 69, no slouch, wore a "Ring It" foam bell hat.

"There are some female fans going along for the ride," said Dawn Donahue, 46, who sported red Phillies ugg-type boots (Phuggs). "But there are true fans who sit through all nine innings and never leave early. It rubs off on everybody. I credit my dad. My dad would have a catch with me every Sunday morning. He called to wish me good luck, like I was playing."

Some learn it right from their mothers. "We noticed in our season tickets a lot of women around us, mothers and daughters," said Kim Franchi, 46, of Brigantine, N.J., who brought along her niece and a "We Love You Pat, Just Not Tonight" sign (for former Phillie Pat Burrell, now a Giant) on Saturday. "We can't come and not bring Robin," she said. "Her brother? No. My dad? No."

For college students coming to town, the Phillies' playoff runs have become part of the fall ritual. Picking your player - and buying the shirt - has become second nature for female college students.

"It's a big part of coming to Philadelphia," said Stevie Strickland, a student at the Art Institute. "You come here and you buy a Phillies shirt. You fit in immediately."

Certainly, apparel makers have zeroed in on the female fan demographic. (And judging by apparel, Werth and Chase Utley continue to hold the majority of female loyalties.)

Erin Slonecker, 19, wore a Phillies sweatshirt to last week's rally that was made by Victoria's Secret, which partnered this year with Major League Baseball. She purchased hers on eBay after the store sold out.

Fashion marketing majors, Slonecker and her friends happily wear both sides of the baseball coin: fashion and intense baseball obsession.

"It sounds shallow, but you pick your favorite player because they're cute," she said. (And then you buy the shirt.)

But don't mistake her for anything but a diehard. "I watch the little stick figures on my phone," said Slonecker, referring to the mlb.com live pitch-by-pitch feature for hard-core fans not near a TV or at the game. "I'm refreshing every five seconds."

Phillies marketing manager Michael Harris said increasing numbers of females have shown up since the park opened. "Our entire fan base became energized, and we suddenly had a 'cool' factor that didn't exist before," Harris said. "We started drawing a larger percentage of fans that were less evident at Veterans Stadium - namely the younger demographic, but also much more female fans."

The routines in the old neighborhoods, where the games were always on, people listening on their front steps, have evolved as well.

"My father went to the Republican Club on Girard Avenue every Friday night with the men," said Billy Burke, 60, who was back in his old Fishtown neighborhood with girlfriend Alyssa DeAngelo last week, both wearing Phillies hats. "The women had coffee and cake on Friday nights in their houses. Now, the girls are where we're going."

Growing up in Springfield, Delaware County, Maryanne Frustillo, 57, was similarly immersed. "I had to be a fan," she said. "My dad listened on the radio. They had day games, the radio was always on. Mom would listen while she was cooking. There was no choice. It was on, I had to learn."

No doubt, all this devotion has found a rewarding object with this team, no moral quandaries required. No reformed dog fighters among them, these Phillies talk of epic things like friendship (Roy Halladay) and of learning courage from team members (Cole Hamels about Halladay).

"My family's here, and I feel like my friends are on the team," the soft-spoken and genuine Halladay said after his playoff no-hitter.

"What could be more wholesome?" said Malseed.

The success of the team doesn't hurt. "I think it's more common now because we started winning," said Natalie Dickerman, 22, a.k.a. @phanatical, longtime fan and first-time blogger on the "Chicks Dig the Long Ball" website (baseball-ladies.com).

"When the Phillies stunk, we were huge Phillies fans and people couldn't grasp the fact that we actually liked them," she said. "I think it's changed. Now you're expected to be a sports fan here."

And while not all female fans are diehards, plenty are truly smitten with the game.

"Not every female can relate to the game," said Kelly Delaney, 28, another baseball-ladies.com blogger. "Sometimes they need a pretty face to be drawn to. But we love baseball. It's not just the hits, home runs. We notice the details of the game."

Which brings us to Tim Lincecum, the Giants pitcher who wondered after the game Saturday if the male Philly fans whistling at him were looking at his derriere.

Delaney has this perspective. "Tim Lincecum is one of my favorite players," she said. "He doesn't have a nice [butt], but I still like him."


Contact staff writer Amy S. Rosenberg at 215-854-2681 or arosenberg@phillynews.com.

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