Kettle Run softball coach Tori Hill makes Major Leagues as Nationals ball girl
Kettle Run softball coach Tori Hill spent 11 games at Nationals Park as Washington's ball girl. --Photo by Julia Payne
What takes years for most baseball players, a 2004 Liberty High graduate did in a matter of weeks.
Tori Hill got the call from a Major League Baseball organization this past spring. By summer, she had begun scooping up ground balls for the Washington Nationals.
Even Nationals phenom Bryce Harper had to spend a more than a full season in the minor leagues before getting on the field in Nationals Park. Not Hill.
Of course, getting to “The Show” isn’t quite as tedious a process for a ball girl – the position she took with the Nationals.
Hill, who also coaches the Kettle Run High softball team, had to survive a ball girl tryout process that included a panel interview, on-field skills test and analysis of her baseball IQ. Then Washington assigned her to 11 games this summer.
During each game at Nationals Park, Hill wore her glove and sat along an outfield wall in foul territory on either the first-base or third-base line.
“It’s definitely something I’ll remember the rest of life,” Hill said. “It was so much fun to be so close to the game and see the intricacies.
“The fans are incredible,” she said, “and the people that I work with were great.”
Hill sought a position with the organization following last MLB season. In 2012, the Nationals made the playoffs for the first time (and had a winning record for the first time) since transplanting to Washington D.C. in 2005. The city’s excitement spread far enough to captivate Hill in Fauquier County.
“I just wanted to be a part of it any way I could,” she said. “And with my background in softball I thought I’d be a perfect fit” as ball girl.
A Bealeton native, Hill began playing softball at age six. She then played four years of varsity softball at Liberty before playing one season at Hunter College of The City University of New York and one season at Bridgewater College.
Hill later joined the Kettle Run softball staff as an assistant coach before taking over as head coach last season. She also gives private instruction to high school pitchers and consults with travel teams when not working for the Fauquier County Parks and Recreation Department.
After catching “Nats Fever” during the 2012 MLB season, Hill applied to become a ball girl. The organization responded with an invite to a tryout.
“Just to see if you’re able to field the ball and [negotiate balls] off the wall,” Hill said “It was cool. That was my first time being out on the field.”
Her eventual duties during games entailed more than just chasing down foul balls, though.
“When you field them, you give them to Nats fans, usually kids,” she said. “And when a new pitcher comes in, I run their bullpen jacket to the dugout for when they come out of the game.”
Hill typically took the field about 20 minutes before the start of each game. She’d spend that pre-game time talking with fans.
“That’s fun,” she said. “My favorite part of the experience as a ball girl is just getting to interact with the kids … The young fans that are just starting to come to ballgames, giving them the ball, it just seems to make their day.”
When Hill was a young MLB fan, she rooted for the Baltimore Orioles, the team nearest to Fauquier before the Nationals arrived.
“I grew up idolizing Cal Ripken,” she said. “Then I started going to Nats games mostly because they were closer, and they just kind of grew on me. … By 2012 I was glued to the TV [or] I was there at the game.”
This past season, Hill drew additional people to Nationals Park simply by her presence. Some of her friends and family made the trip to Washington, D.C., to watch her guard the foul lines while the Nationals played.
Among them was Dan Olinger, Kettle Run’s former head softball coach for whom Hill served as an assistant.
“I think it’s wonderful,” Olinger said of Hill being ball girl.
That didn’t keep him from giving her a hard time after he attended a game that pitted the Nationals against the New York Yankees.
“The first foul ball she caught, she gave it a Yankees fan,” Olinger said with a laugh. “I didn’t much care for that.”
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The Tori Hill file
Titles: Kettle Run softball coach, Fauquier County Parks and Recreation Department employee, Washington Nationals ball girl.
Local girl: Bealeton native was a Liberty High standout softball pitcher and 2004 graduate.
Nationals passion: “I’m glad to see so many people around here supporting them. … Seeing people around town wearing Nats hats is great … and getting to talk to people about them. … This team is so exciting to watch and they’re only going to get more exciting.”
Ball girl highlight: “I was lucky enough to work the last home game of the season. That was cool. The fans were especially enthusiastic. … I got to see Davey [Johnson] in his last game as a manager in his career. Also, [Ian] Desmond got his 20th steal. The crowd went crazy for that. And [Stephen] Strasburg got his 500th strikeout, so that was exciting.”
Favorite player: Jayson Werth. “Now everybody loves him, but fans gave him really high expectations [initially]. This year he exceeded them. I think he’s really good leader … and he plays with this quiet intensity.”
Favorite pitcher: Jordan Zimmermann. “He’s just so tough and he’s got such good composure. … He represents all the qualities that I try to coach in my softball players.”
Favorite rookie: Anthony Rendon. “It just looks like he’s having so much fun out there playing. … That’s exciting to watch with a young kid like that.”
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