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THE BATBOY IS MORE THAN A MASCOT

Not all the people with terrific seats for last week's first-ever Washington Nationals official home game were rich or important adults. A 20-year-old George Washington University student, Jonathan Kolker, the brand-new baseball team's brand-new batboy, had one of the best seats in the house.

"Their history, all their traditions, everything is just beginning with this day, and even as a batboy, I'm part of that," Kolker said.

Even though he grew up rooting for the Baltimore Orioles, Kolker says he will have no problem working for the Nationals: "Now I'll have an American League team to root for and a National League team to root for."

Kolker knows he has a dream job. As a batboy for the Orioles for two seasons, he got to high-five players who had just hit home runs. He stood in center field during batting practice and scooped up balls hit by the American League's best sluggers. And he once had a chance to practice his Spanish -- during a goofy conversation about vacuum cleaners -- with then-Red Sox pitching ace Pedro Martinez.

Kolker also had the godlike power to occasionally toss a foul ball into the stands and make some fan's day.

Still, he knows that much of what batboys do is far from glamorous. Picking up the trash that fans throw on the field, scraping mud off players' shoes and gathering their smelly laundry are just a few of the batboy's foul duties.

"You do it for the love of the game," he said.

Growing up, Kolker played Little League, worshiped the Orioles and eventually became an Orioles batboy.

The Nationals say they are looking for batboys who are at least 17 years old and can keep up their schoolwork, despite the job's long hours. Kolker will have to arrive at the ballpark three hours before each of the team's 81 home games and stay for an hour or more afterward. He will make about $50 per game.

The batboy's first task is to help get everything ready in the clubhouse, dugout and bullpen, including stocking them with Gatorade, water and towels. For the Orioles, Kolker had to get the new boxes of balls ready and prepare all that chewing material.

"All kinds of sunflower seeds -- original, ranch and barbecue -- plus pumpkin seeds," Kolker said. "And of course, the Bazooka (bubblegum), sugarless and regular."

Batboys carry extra bats to the dugout, but their main bat-related duties are during the game. It's the batboy's job to sprint onto the field and grab the bats the players drop after each at-bat -- but they must wait until the play is finished.

"The worst thing you could do, as a batboy, is go out too soon and interfere with a play," Kolker said. His other job will be to act as ballboy, grabbing foul balls in the area next to the first-base line.

ABOUT BATBOYS:
Major League Baseball requires batboys to be 14 or older.

There are no batgirls, because the job includes going in the clubhouse, where players change clothes. The Nationals have not decided whether they will have ballgirls, used by some other teams, including the Orioles.

A few batboys, including Steve Garvey, have become major league players.

In 1969, a batboy fooled a baseball card photographer and posed as Angels third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez.

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