DON GONYEA, HOST:
One of the hallmarks of a baseball game is the sound of vendors hawking cold beers in the ballpark. But the voices you'll hear are mostly men's.
At Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., there's only one female beer vendor who works every game. As Mikaela Lefrak from our member station WAMU reports, she's also one of the best they have.
MIKAELA LEFRAK, BYLINE: At a typical Washington Nationals home game, around 60 vendors in neon-yellow shirts walk up and down the aisles selling food and drink. The most popular, by far, is beer. And Christy Colt is great at selling it.
CHRISTY COLT: Bud Light, Stella, Shock Top, IPA.
LEFRAK: She works in the lower-level sections along the first base line. She stops every few steps to chat with her regulars and crack open a few beers.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAN CRACKING)
LEFRAK: Colt is 35 with dirty-blonde hair that she keeps tucked in a bun underneath a Nats cap. She's surprisingly soft-spoken for someone whose job it is to get attention.
COLT: I guess I don't really like the spotlight on me, but I kind of need it when I'm doing this.
LEFRAK: Colt carries around 60 pounds of beer and ice in her blue bin. In a quiet room away from the stands, she tells me she gets lots of questions about it that her male colleagues don't.
COLT: I can't tell you how many times I've been told, like, oh, it's too heavy for you. Like, how do you carry it? You're a girl. Like, doesn't it hurt your back or your shoulder? And isn't that heavy?
LEFRAK: It is, but she can handle it. She's average height but fit, and she's been doing this job for 10 years now. But to some people, she still stands out.
COLT: People take pictures of me all the time at games. Like, oh, I remember seeing a girl beer vendor.
JEFF SCHEIDHAUER: It is definitely a very physical job.
LEFRAK: That's Jeff Scheidhauer, the operations director for the company that manages the ballpark's vendors. He says that they don't get a lot of female applicants. In Japan, where baseball is also wildly popular, almost all beer vendors are women. But here in the U.S., it's a traditionally male role. Scheidhauer says he's not sure why. To him, it's a challenge no matter what gender you are.
SCHEIDHAUER: So not many men and women vendors latch on because it is pretty tough work.
LEFRAK: Drunk fans are part of the job. Colt thinks that keeps some women away.
SCHEIDHAUER: When you mix alcohol and physical labor - I don't know - I don't know how to say it - sometimes, there's inappropriate comments.
LEFRAK: When that happens, she tells her supervisor. She says he's confronted drunk fans for her before. But for the most part, she says, the fans are great. She's become good friends with a lot of season ticket holders, like Biff Henley. He finds her at the top of his section before the game gets underway to say hi.
BIFF HENLEY: She is just absolutely wonderful - great human being. We encourage people to buy from her (laughter).
COLT: I do know a lot of people.
LEFRAK: Colt waves goodbye to Henley and starts making her way down the steps right behind the Nationals' dugout.
COLT: Bud Light, Stella, Shock Top, IPA.
LEFRAK: When she's not hawking beer, she teaches middle and high school history at a charter school. She saves up her vending money to travel and go see musicals. Vendors can bring in a couple hundred dollars a game.
COLT: And it's probably more than I would make, like, tutoring or any other part-time jobs.
LEFRAK: Colt grew up a Chicago Cubs fan, and she's grown to love the Nationals, too. So talking baseball with her customers - that's a pitch that works.
For NPR News, I'm Mikaela Lefrak in Washington.
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