By Karen Billing
With 15 seasons as a ball girl under her belt, Carmel Valley’s Nina Detrow might be the longest serving San Diego Padre on the field at Petco Park. She’s snagged line drives off All Star Justin Upton, worked the 1998 World Series against the Yankees and has appeared on ESPN’s SportsCenter Top Ten Plays of the Week three times. She estimates she ran closer Trevor Hoffman’s jacket in from the bullpen close to 300 times and worked one 22 inning game where they had three seventh inning stretches.
“They pay us but all of us would do it for free,” Detrow said. “I’m so blessed to do it, I’m so thankful.”
Detrow is one of a crew of eight Padres ball girls, rotating games. Their job is to help speed up the game—it’s not that the players are lazy but they can’t possibly shag every ball. That’s where the ball girls come in.
“It adds a unique female presence to the sport. I’m shocked how many autographs and pictures we take every game,” said Detrow, noting they’re especially popular with young female baseball fans.
Detrow has always loved the game, playing softball through high school. She is also a five-time winner in the women’s Over the Line beach baseball tournament held in Mission Beach.
Her son Mark is a junior outfielder on the Torrey Pines High varsity baseball team and she has her fingers crossed that she will be a ball girl long enough to see him get drafted and share the field with him some day.
Detrow got a kick out of three of her plays making SportsCenter Top Ten Plays over the years. One was that Upton line drive, another was a looper off Sean Burroughs she caught while holding her ball girl stool in her other hand and the last was a line drive off the bat of David Eckstein.
Her most memorable game was the 1998 World Series; her father was a lifetime Yankee fan and it was her first season as a ball girl.
“We’re not just watching the game, we’re studying every single pitch,” Detrow said.
Because ball girls are positioned right in the action, they can never take their eye off the ball—Detrow said she’s lucky that in 15 years she’s never been hit and has had no close calls.
“The worst is when they put ‘Error-Ball girl’ on the Jumbotron,” Detrow said. “There’s really only been one or two over the years that I should’ve had.”
Situated on the third base line in the outfield, Detrow also gets pretty close with the season ticket holders who have seats near her station.
“I’ve been friends with so many season ticket holders. One boy I gave a ball to grew up and just got drafted by the Royals. I’ve been to weddings and, sadly, a funeral,” Detrow said. “They become your family every year, they’re the ones that come religiously to every game.”
Petco Park brings Detrow a lot closer to the fans than Qualcomm, where the Padres played until the new park opened in 2004.