No one on, two outs, fourth at the bottom, and the crowd in Section 120 at Citizens Bank Park is listless.
Then Samantha DiMarco steps down the aisle with a plastic tub full of popcorn boxes on her head.
fans look up. Some shout to stop them. She’s having a sale.
Philadelphia’s stadiums today are largely devoid of the colorful street vendors of yesteryear, vendors who have developed a following. Charles “The Doggie Man” Frank learned wisdom while promoting his “hot daaags” at Palestra, Connie Mack and Veterans Stadium. Seymour “Pops” Steinberg roamed through the vet and called out, “Cotton candy, here!” in a distinctive nasal singsong. Sometimes you bought just for him to come down for a minute.
DiMarco, 26, sells popcorn at the stadium as a supplement to her job as a physical therapist at Premier Orthopedics. She started working at Crown Foods, a subcontractor of Aramark, in 2015. Their first product was lemonade sold out of wire racks. The melting ice cream on a hot day wasn’t fun and “I said, ‘I’m not doing this again.'”
Popcorn is much cleaner and lighter. The tub holds 30 boxes totaling less than five pounds.
But why the balancing act?
“To be honest, I got bored at work,” DiMarco said. “The 2015 Phillies weren’t the best team. I went back to my booth to get more popcorn and the bin was empty. It’s big, so it’s hard to carry it in front of me. I turned it on my head. I took a few steps and then it fell, and then I picked it up and I just did it over and over again. I’ve found it’s easier to carry when it’s full. I just practiced practically every home game.”
After about a month, she said, “One day I just put it on my head and it didn’t fall off. If it’s on my head, it stays. I pay a lot of attention to everyone around me.”
Some people ask if she has suction cups or magnets to hold it in place. But a spot check showed no signs of it or even a dent in the tub floor. DiMarco shrugs. “I don’t think it stays on because my head is particularly flat,” she said.
Windy days are the enemy, as you might imagine. “It’s just paper boxes in an open plastic tub. I have to hold it then,” she said. “My two biggest fears are falling or falling popcorn onto the field. Then I would be at SportsCenter.”
Teams are noticing – “the guys in the bullpen, especially the opposing teams,” she said. “They’re joking or they just think I’m faking it. It’s the Phillies’ bullpen this season, every game. You wave at me and I wave back.”
DiMarco starts at the lower level on the first base side and works her way up to third before heading to outfield.
“People cheer me on all the time and give me high fives and take my picture,” she said. “I do this part-time in the summer because I love baseball. I love the Phillies and it’s fun. But the money is nice too.”
You should know economics. Street vendors are not hourly workers. “If you buy it, I’ll get paid,” she said. Tips keep her going and the balancing act helps.
A case started at $4 and then went up to $4.25. Two seasons ago, the move to $5 reduced her keep-the-change tips, but that’s bounced back, she said.
“Last week I had a Mets fan pull up and say, ‘We don’t want popcorn, but we all pitched in,’ and he gave me about $6 and said to keep it. Well, thank you – for being a Mets fan.”