BY RUTH RICE
Friendships last a lifetime.
For some of this year’s 36 AAABA Ambassadors, young women between the ages of 17 and 20, they are carrying their friendships beyond a summer baseball tournament.
For Katie Fisher, daughter of Ed and Chris Fisher, this is her second year as an ambassador, and she couldn’t be happier.
“I’d do it again,” Katie said. “I’ve made so many friends. The girls become close.
“Some of us are going to go to college together.”
Katie, 18, is a graduate of Richland High School and will be attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the fall, where she plans to major in biology/pre-med. She wants to become a dermatologist.
“I’ve known forever I wanted to be a doctor, but never knew in what,” Katie said. “I considered being a cardiologist, but when I was 13, I got drug-induced lupus from acne medication and got really sick. With dermatology, I had to study some of the medicines for myself, so I thought it would be neat for me to do.”
Katie said being an ambassador builds confidence and helps those who are shy come out of their shells.
“You meet new people and it makes you want to meet more people,” said Katie, who described herself as very shy during her first year as ambassador. “I was in the Outstanding Young Woman (pageant), and that helped.”
Up until now, the ambassadors have helped with fundraising. But Katie knows that during tournament week, the girls will be busy.
“We’ll be constantly on the go, supporting the team that represents Johnstown,” Katie said. “Little girls look up to you and want to be you. It’s a neat feeling to have.
“You get to feel famous for a week.”
To become an ambassador, girls complete an application, submit a photograph and then are interviewed.
“They ask if you have the time, maturity and responsibility to do this,” Katie said.
“You do have to give up a lot of time,” she said.
“They want to know if you can handle the pressure of meeting new people.”
Lauren and Lynette Faight, 17-year-old daughters of Dan and Terri Faight, will be the tournament’s first twin ambassadors.
The girls had an interest in becoming ambassadors and each would have been glad for the other if only one had made it.
They never expected that both would be chosen as ambassadors.
“It was really a shock that both of us got in,” Lauren said.
The twins have made an appearance at Thunder in the Valley and rode in Corvettes for Windber’s Miner’s Memorial Day parade.
“We get to sell ads and tickets,” Lauren said. “We go to Wal-mart or Giant Eagle, sell tickets and have fun. It’s been a joy.”
Lynette said she is shy, but warms up after she gets to know people.
“The second-year girls knew how to do things and introduced themselves,” Lynette said. “They showed us how to open up to people, like big sisters.”
The twins, who will be seniors at Richland High School, said they are sold on IUP for their college education.
Lynette wants to study elementary education, and Lauren wants to study child psychology.
Lynette has known she wanted to be a teacher since the seventh or eighth grade.
“We have little brothers and have to be role models,” Lynette said.
“They want to do what we do.
“I’ve done vacation Bible school and had the younger kids. Just the thought that I can change and impact lives, I guess I have a passion for it.”
Lauren didn’t discover she wanted to be a child psychologist until this year, when she had the opportunity to job- shadow.
“I fell in love with it,” Lauren said. “I get a lot of pleasure helping children.
“We have our brothers, who are 8 and 10, and we baby-sit.”
Rachelle Vautar, 17-year-old daughter of James and Cheryl Vautar, thought being a AAABA Ambassador would be a good experience.
“I wanted to get involved with the town and learn about the different school districts,” Rachelle said. “I enjoyed meeting people and bonding with the girls. They’re all very nice.”
In addition to selling opening-night tickets and ads for the AAABA bulletins, Rachelle knows that in her job as an ambassador, she will be expected to attend banquets and all AAABA games, and sell 50-50 tickets.
A senior at Bishop McCort High School, Rachelle knows she wants to attend Pitt or Duquesne University, but isn’t sure what she wants to study.
“Maybe something in international studies,” Rachelle said.
Brian Vuletich, coordinator between the Johnstown Old-timers Baseball Association, which sponsors the tournament, and the ambassadors, said there were more than 100 applications this year.
The roles of the ambassadors have changed over the years.
From the 1940s to the 1980s, thousands of people in Johnstown were selling tickets, one of the ambassadors was chosen as AAABA queen.
As Johnstown’s population diminished, the girls received more responsibilities and lost their “royal” status.
BY RUTH RICE