The replica Orioles jersey looks somewhat unusual on a figure standing barely 5 feet 2 and weighing less than 100 pounds.

With her long, sandy-brown hair tied back, and her left hand tucked inside a fielder's glove, 20-year-old Sharon Curl sits on a stool beside the rolled-up tarpaulin at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium.

No number appears across her back, just the word "BALLGIRL" that stretches to both shoulders. The national anthem blares over the stadium speakers, and the first batter steps to the plate.

This is where the fun starts.

"I think this is the ultimate job," she said.

A 1989 graduate of Wilde Lake High School, Curl serves as the Orioles' alternate ballgirl whenever Perry Hall residents Dana Sperl, 19, and Graziella Bemini, 20, are unavailable.

She also works five or six days a week as a waitress at an Italian restaurant in Annapolis and attends classes twice a week at Anne Arundel Community College.

But the nights spent at the stadium are "a dream come true."

Oncevoted "Best Actress" at Wilde Lake, Curl has appeared in numerous theatrical productions in Washington and worked as an extra in the JohnWaters movie "Crybaby," filmed in the Baltimore area two years ago.

"I played a snob for about three months," she said, laughing.

Before that came another extreme role, that of the slob character "Olive" in a female version of "The Odd Couple" during her senior year atWilde Lake -- a moment captured in her high school yearbook.

Her athletic background isn't quite as extensive, however. She was taughtto play softball by her father, Sidney, a former Little League coach, and competed on the recreation level.

She can be excused if a few balls elude her grasp over the course of the season.

"You just laugh it off, make a joke out of it," she said.

"As long as you getout of the way. They're going to boo you more if you interfere with the game. You always have to be ready to grab your stool and run."

Curl lived in Columbia for five years -- in the Running Brook community during eighth and ninth grade, and in Jeffers Hill from 10th through 12th -- and now resides with her father in the historic district of Annapolis.

She has been a baseball fan for as long as she can remember, but didn't attend her first game until last season.

"ThenI started going to all the games," she said. "I saw the ballgirls out on the field and I thought, 'That's what I want to do.' "

She mailed a resume, cover letter and black-and-white photograph to Stephanie Kelly -- the organization's coordinator of ballgirls -- and director of community relations Julie Wagner.

"We interviewed one other candidate," Kelly said, "and Sharon came in and she just fit the bill.

"They're all the same height, too. That was a big selling point.It would look odd if you had somebody who was 6 feet, as opposed to 5 feet. I'm not saying we would discriminate on that basis, but we'rebetter off having them the same height."

Curl's first eight gameshave been largely uneventful. No bruises on her legs or her ego.

Others aren't as fortunate. In less than two years on the job, Sperl has been victimized by bad hops and bad weather.

"I always get line drives that seem to hit me," she said. "And, yes, I've fallen out on the field, too."

One comical incident last season made highlightreels across the country and was replayed on the nationally syndicated program, "This Week In Baseball."

A sharp grounder outside the third-base line scooted beneath Sperl's glove and ricocheted off the fence behind her before settling in shallow left field.

With former Oriole Phil Bradley motioning for her to retrieve the ball, Sperl remembered what she once was told about always hustling and sprinted to the outfield.

Unfortunately, she had forgotten about the rainstorm earlier in the day that soaked the playing surface.

"I just could not stop. I kept going and slipped right down. I'll never forget that," she said.

Neither will Curl. "One of the first things I learned about was Dana's slide," she said.

Sperl taught her new co-worker other lessons, as well -- in a more conventional manner.

"Do not mix business with pleasure. That's the No. 1 rule," Sperl said. "Also, watch the umpires, be alert and don't sit with your legs crossedduring a game. You have to have your feet down and be ready. If a ball comes, it's going to come quick. You've got to be ready to jump."

The ballgirls are forbidden from giving away freshly retrieved souvenirs to the fans. But that hasn't reduced Curl's popularity, especially with the younger spectators.

"It's great when the little kidslike you. They make me feel really good," she said.

"They'll say,'Can I have your autograph?' or, 'You're so cute, you're so sweet.' That's nice."

Curl admittedly was nervous before her first game inMay, fearing the crowd wouldn't respond to a newcomer. The worst-case scenarios passed through her mind.

"I wasn't sure how they'd react, but they welcomed me," she said.

"And Dana and Graziella have been real helpful. They've answered all my dumb questions."

Curl worked her eighth game June 18, subbing for Bemini, the veteran of thegroup with three previous years of experience.

She readied herself beforehand by first listening to "upbeat" music on her drive to thestadium, then doing some stretching exercises while waiting to change into her uniform inside a tiny room at the Orioles office that she shares with the team's mascot.

Though the game finally took place after a nearly two-hour rain

delay, the night was a complete washout.

Only a few grounders were hit in her direction down the right-field line, and the crowd was in no mood for frivolity after the latestart and the Orioles' miserable performance.

Curl tried to lead the fans in the singing of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" during the traditional seventh-inning stretch, but the response was less than overwhelming.

Fortunately, her theatrical background prepared her forsinging solo.

"They were pretty much out of it," she said.

So were the Orioles, who fell behind by six runs after two innings en route to a 9-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

"It was kind of disappointing, but I still enjoyed it," she said. "You just sit there and say, 'OK, we're still going to pull this one out. It's rally time.' You try your best to get the crowd going."

Most of the 26,401 in attendance were going for their cars long before the seventh inning.

But there will be other nights, at least 20 by season's end, Kelly said.

"I'll keep doing this as long as they'll let me," Curl said.

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad