When Erin Giles graduated from Middlebury College in 2017, she couldn’t see herself picking up a glove again in a consequential way.
Giles, 28, played softball for four years at Middlebury, mostly at third base, after winning two Class A state championships at Scarborough High under legendary coach Tom Griffin. Then, she figured, it was time to move on to other pursuits, though she did continue to play for a few years in a corporate league in Boston.
“I played every summer growing up, so it was definitely a serious sport for myself. But again, at the end of the day, I didn’t see myself going on to become a professional softball player,” Giles said. “When I graduated Middlebury, I kind of thought that was gonna be some of my last exposure to the sport.”
In a strict sense, she was right. But then came the opportunity of a lifetime: She was asked if she was interested in being a Red Sox ball attendant.
Giles, who now lives and works in Boston, had a quick Zoom interview before the 2023 season. Soon, she got the good news that she had been selected.
“I knew it’s a very sought-after job and there’s a lot of huge fans, so I just wasn’t quite sure how it would go,” said Giles. “I assumed there would be a lot of people who were interested and a lot of competition. It turns out like a couple of days later, I got an email saying ‘we’d love to have you,’ and that was that.”
To be a ball attendant for the Red Sox, the one strict requirement is that the applicant played college softball or baseball. Giles met that criteria, but she did have one small problem: She no longer had her softball glove, having lost it before the COVID pandemic.
“I was walking through the Boston Common after a game and I had a bag of all my stuff,” Giles said. “When I got home, my glove that I had grown up with that was custom and had my name initialed into it was gone.”
Without a glove and abiding by the social restrictions of the pandemic, Giles hadn’t seriously played softball since. When she was hired by the Red Sox, the very first thing she did was buy a new glove.
“To be honest, it’s still not fully broken in because it takes such a long time to break in the glove. I was putting it under my mattress,” Giles said, laughing while discussing her intricate breaking-in process.
“I ordered oil to try to get it to break in because I didn’t have too much time in between buying the glove and being on the field for the first time. I was really trying to throw out all the stops.”
Giles quickly found out that catching foul balls is only one part of the responsibilities of a Red Sox ball attendant.
When she arrives at Fenway Park 90 minutes before a game, she first puts on her uniform. She then looks over the scripts for pregame ceremonies along with the other attendants, since they’re in charge of making the ceremonies run smoothly.
These ceremonies include the first pitch, honoring fans and former players, and selecting a young fan from the stands to yell “play ball” at the start of each game, among many other small details. Each ball attendant works roughly 30 games a season.
“All of our ball attendants share a passion for the game, but also for helping other fans feel that same passion and feel welcomed and enjoy their experience,” said Karen Zenteno, who manages the ball attendants as the coordinator for fan services and entertainment.
“The passion that they show and the care that they show for making sure that the stands around them, the fans that they meet and interact with, feel welcome and feel like this is a place for them.”
After the pregame ceremonies, Giles sets up alongside the first- or third-base line and positions herself at her bucket ready to catch foul balls, switching locations with her coworker halfway through the game.
“It’s really about chatting with the people behind you and getting balls to little kids, just making their day,” Giles said. “Those are the things that we really try to do during the game, to be able to interact with fans and give some people a really great experience that they won’t forget.”
Giles was awarded the Monster Service Award for the month of July, an award given by each department to Red Sox employees who excel in their role.
“She embodies our philosophy of being safe, being engaging, being respectful, and being a wonderful ambassador to our fans,” Zenteno shared.
This year, Giles has met David Ortiz and other members of the 2013 World Series champions, and warmed up with Jean Segura of the Miami Marlins.
But her favorite memory involves getting a ball to an eager young fan.
“This little boy was sitting in the second row and he desperately wanted a ball, and his mother had come over and said that last game they were here, he didn’t end up getting a ball,” Giles said. “She ended up going to the shop and buying a ball and giving it to him because he was so upset that he didn’t get one.”
As a devoted attendant, Giles made an effort to try to catch a ball for the boy, but when she caught her first foul ball of the night, he and his mom were nowhere to be found.
“I ended up giving it to this other little girl, who again was adorable. She was so cute, but it wasn’t that little boy. The inning ends, and I’m walking around and I see the little boy and he is sobbing,” Giles said. “He was in the next section over.
I guess those hadn’t been his seats, and the guy behind him had asked him to move. And I felt so bad.
The boy’s mom was very understanding, but Giles still wanted to make this young fan’s day. Then, Boston third baseman Rafael Devers tossed a ball to her.
“I had a little more time and I turned around and looked up and I’m trying to scan to find him. Again, it’s supposed to be quick. I’m not supposed to be holding on to a ball,” Giles said.
“And all of a sudden, the mom “Lion Kings” her son in the air. She’s like basically tossing her son up in the air to show where they’re sitting.”
Soon, the ball was in the hands of the young fan.
Giles says the feeling she got from that experience sticks with her to this day.
“Everyone’s clapping, he is so excited, his eyes are lighting up, and I think it just meant the world to him,” Giles said. “To be able to be a part of that was such an amazing experience.”