Ball­girls sur­vive Las Ve­gas mas­sacre, re­turn to sta­dium

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - BILL PLASCHKE

Two of the most re­silient Dodgers will fi­nally make their post­sea­son de­buts Sun­day.

In Game 2 of the Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries at Dodger Sta­dium, you can find them sit­ting on buck­ets down the base­lines.

On one side will be Christina Zam­brana, 27, a for­mer col­lege soft­ball in­fielder with a nifty glove.

On the other will be Amy Moore, 26, a for­mer col­lege soft­ball catcher with a big arm.

They are of­fi­cially known around Chavez Ravine as “ball­girls,” a ti­tle that un­der­states the night in Las Ve­gas when the two pow­er­ful women were gi­ants.

When Stephen Pad­dock be­gan a shoot­ing spree on the night of Oct. 1 at the Route 91 Har­vest coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val at Las Ve­gas Vil­lage, Zam­brana and Moore were in the mid­dle of a throng of about 22,000 con­cert­go­ers.

They ini­tially ran to­gether to hide un­der a tent. Then they crouched to­gether un­der a ta­ble. Then, clutch­ing each other’s hands, the Dodgers team­mates fled through the hail of gun­fire.

At one point, Moore dragged Zam­brana around a metal fence. At an­other, af­ter Moore lost her shoes, Zam­brana hoisted her on her back and car­ried her.

“We were just run­ning for our lives,” Moore said. “We knew if we didn’t get out of there, we were go­ing to die.”

Once they reached safety, they be­gan help­ing oth­ers, Moore com­fort­ing those who had fallen around her, Zam­brana quickly re­mov­ing her belt to use as a tourni­quet on the wrist of a badly bleed­ing shoot­ing vic­tim.

To­gether they sur­vived, two of the lucky ones not among the 58 dead and about 500 wounded.

To­gether they will re­turn to work Sun­day, em­braced by their co-work­ers, wel­comed by the play­ers, cheered by the fans who sit be­hind them in the stands.

They are mourn­ing the blood­shed they wit­nessed, keenly thank­ful for the bless­ings they have been given and more ex­cited than ever for Oc­to­ber baseball and the eter­nal hope it holds, for an­other nine in­nings of life.

“It will be, like, nor­mal,” Zam­brana said. “It will be heal­ing.”

Rule No. 1 when deal­ing with Dodgers ball­girls: Don’t be sur­prised if they are bet­ter baseball play­ers than you.

“I love it when fans say, ‘Hey, you throw good for a girl,’ ” Moore said. “I’m like, ‘No, we throw good, pe­riod.’ ”

They warm up the out­field­ers with long throws between in­nings. They make leap­ing catches of er­rant foul balls. They deftly grab their bucket and jump into the stands to avoid balls that are fair.

There are videos of great Dodgers ball­girl grabs on YouTube. Look close and you can al­ways see some un­sus­pect­ing fan sit­ting nearby with their face buried in their smart­phone, un­aware that a lung­ing wo­man just saved their neck.

“They’re all ath­letic, they’ve all played baseball or soft­ball, and they’re all re­ally good,” said Lon Rosen, Dodgers chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer. “They’re not just sit­ting out there; they have a job to do.”

The Dodgers em­ploy six ball­girls and one ball­boy. They are paid hourly, part-time wages. They ac­quire the job only through try­outs. And they dress like ballplay­ers be­cause they are ballplay­ers.

Moore and Zam­brana, who knew each other from years of com­pet­ing on the South­land soft­ball cir­cuit, re­con­nected this win­ter when both joined the team. They both are still in­volved in soft­ball — Moore plays for the Bri­tish na­tional team and Zam­brana is the coach at Cov­ina South Hills High — and they thought it would be fun.

Lit­tle did they know there would be drama.

“I once threw a foul ball into the stands, some guy caught it, then a cou­ple of in­nings later he threw it back with his phone num­ber on it,” Zam­brana re­called.

They had no idea there also might be teas­ing.

Moore once made a stab of an En­rique Her­nan­dez foul line drive, af­ter which he jok­ingly glared at her in the dugout, say­ing, “Don’t you ever catch my line drives again!”

Af­ter work­ing to­gether for sev­eral games, Zam­brana and Moore re­newed their friend­ship in such a way that Moore in­vited Zam­brana to join her and an en­tourage of sev­eral friends and fam­ily mem­bers in Las Ve­gas for the week­end mu­sic fes­ti­val.

“We had a great time, a per­fect week­end,” Moore said. “Un­til the end.”

They de­cided to leave be­fore Ja­son Aldean’s fi­nal songs and were walk­ing to­ward an exit when they heard a cou­ple of pops and thought it was fire­works. Then they heard the con­tin­u­ous pop­pop-pop and ran for cover.

“We thought, ‘Is this go­ing to be it?’ ” Moore said. “It sounded like we were on a gun range. It was right on top of us.”

Af­ter briefly hid­ing, Moore re­mem­bered the ad­vice of her fa­ther, Steve, a re­tired po­lice­man, and brother Kevin, a cur­rent po­lice­man who also at­tended the con­cert.

“I was al­ways told, if you’re ever in this type of sit­u­a­tion you can’t stay where you’re in dan­ger, you have to get out,” Moore re­called, “So I said, ‘Christina, we have to move.’ ”

Moore grabbed Zam­brana’s hand and they worked their way through the mass of flee­ing hu­man­ity. When Zam­brana was stuck against a metal fence, Moore pulled her around it. When they reached a 6-foot re­tain­ing wall, they helped each other climb it.

When Moore lost her san­dals and her feet be­gan bleed­ing on the rock-strewn path, it was Zam­brana who led the way.

“I leaned over and told her to jump on my back,” Zam­brana said. “I had to carry her out, it was the only way.”

All around them, the bul­lets kept com­ing and peo­ple kept drop­ping, so they kept mov­ing un­til they reached the streets and reunited with Moore’s brother.

“Peo­ple get­ting shot all over the place, blood ev­ery­where, I just kept, ‘C’mon, c’mon, go, go, go,’ ” Moore said. “It could have been us. It was like we were pro­tected by an­gels.”

Af­ter tend­ing to some of the wounded, they re­turned to a nearby ho­tel. Soon, their phones were filled with mes­sages from Dodgers em­ploy­ees who had learned that they were at the con­cert through so­cial me­dia. Th­ese em­ploy­ees in­cluded ev­ery­one from the Dodgers bosses to Yasiel Puig.

“We’re not very high on the totem pole,” Moore said. “We’re only ball­girls, some peo­ple don’t even know our names. But the sup­port from the Dodgers has been over­whelm­ing.”

The Dodgers re­sponded to the women and many oth­ers in the area who were af­fected by the tragedy and reached out for com­fort. They sent out per­son­al­ized get-well videos, let­ters from man­ager Dave Roberts, au­to­graphed jer­seys and team gear.

Moore was sched­uled to work the Na­tional League di­vi­sion se­ries against the Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs, but the Dodgers told her to take the week off. In­stead, they gave both women tick­ets to last Satur­day’s Game 2 against the Di­a­mond­backs and of­fered them the ser­vices of Dodgers chap­lain Bran­don Cash.

“They’re part of our fam­ily,” Rosen said. “They’re im­por­tant to us, im­por­tant to our play­ers and fans. We’re very ex­cited that they can come back and par­tic­i­pate on Sun­day.”

When they do show up, no­tice the num­ber on Amy Moore’s jer­sey. It is a per­fect sym­bol for the com­bi­na­tion of Dodger mir­a­cles both past and present.

She will be the only Dodger wear­ing 88.

Kevin Moore

DODGERS BALL­GIRLS Christina Zam­brana, left, and Amy Moore in Las Ve­gas last week be­fore the shoot­ing started.

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