Believe it or not, there’s an art to shooting a T-shirt out of a sling shot.
“You think slinging a T-shirt into stands is super easy, but there’s actually a technique that they teach you,” said Watauga resident Jessica Zura, who is in her second season as a member of the Texas Rangers Six Shooters team. “You’ve got to know what you’re doing.”
Of course, Zura, 24, knows that the proper way of hurtling a T-shirt into the stands from a sling shot requires just the right amount of arc because you don’t want to drill a fan at Globe Life Park in the face.
Zura knows that because of her training as a Six Shooter, which is the interactive squad that performs at all Rangers home games. The 23 women on the team do everything from giving prizes away, to making balloon animals, to performing the Cotton-Eyed Joe on top of the dugouts during the seventh-inning stretch at the games.
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The Six Shooters’ routine starts nearly two hours before the first pitch.
And while the young women make it look easy during the game, it’s anything but that to go from being a fan at the game to being a Six Shooter. Plenty goes into a Six Shooter routine, which starts nearly two hours before first pitch and can end just after the final out, depending each member’s duties for that game.
First of all, not just anyone can be a Six Shooter. It all begins with an application and tryout process.
The competition to be a Six Shooter for 2016 was tough, maybe because of the success the club had last year.
Approximately 200 women (you have to be 18 to work as a Six Shooter) submitted applications to be on the team, and whether you’re a veteran like Zura or a rookie like 18-year-old North Richland Hills resident Emily Hailey, you’ve got to go through the audition process, which normally includes 30 to 50 women.
Once you make the cut from the interview process to being on the team, there’s still work to be done before Opening Day.
Two days of training get the team in game shape.
We look for [women] who are outgoing, can think on their feet, [and] have the right kind of personality.
Jason Abbadie, Rangers promotions coordinator
They learn two dance routines that are performed during the seventh-inning stretch, work on carrying the flags they use to run across Greene’s Hill in center field when the Rangers score a run, and practice on their slingshot skills for the T-shirts. And that’s nowhere close to everything a Six Shooter has to do under the lights.
Fun in the sun
“We look for [women] who are outgoing, can think on their feet, have the right kind of personality,” said Jason Abbadie, who is in his second year as a promotions coordinator for the Rangers.
“Also you have to have the ability to dance or demonstrate the ability that you can learn to dance. That is a big part of the program.”
Most of the women have backgrounds in either cheerleading or dance. Zura was a member of the University of Texas at Arlington dance team. Monika Hailey, who is also from North Richland Hills, was a cheerleader in high school at Fort Worth Christian School. Her younger sister, Emily, also cheered at Fort Worth Christian School and still does as a freshman at Dallas Baptist University.
Having that little extra pep is huge, especially when you’re standing on top of the home dugout dancing at a sold-out game.
That’s a huge draw for some of the women.
“I did cheer all the way through high school and this was a fun way to stay somewhat with my cheer stuff,” said second-year Six Shooter Monika Hailey, who is a junior chemistry major at TCU. “This is a great way to stay involved. It’s just so fun.”
Word of mouth also helps when it comes to putting together the team. Zura was living in Illinois and looking for a reason to come back to Texas when a sorority sister suggested she try out for the Six Shooters. She flew down for the auditions and is now back in Texas for good.
Monika Hailey opted to try out last year with her best friend, Mackenzie Hamilton, who is also in her second year as a Six Shooter.
Emily Hailey was hooked after her sister made the team, and she’s a first-year Six Shooter along with her college roommate, Tannah Miinch.
Having a friend on the squad can make things easier, but it doesn’t guarantee you’ll get to work with her. Or even work the same game.
While there are 23 women, only 10 work each game. Those 10 are divided up into three squads. A squad of four is in charge of running the flags on Greene’s Hill. Two squads of three handle the rest of the duties around the park once the game starts.
Those can vary from promotions to cheering up a child who isn’t having the best of times with a face tattoo or by making a balloon animal. Yes, balloon-animal experience isn’t a requirement but it does help.
“They make sure and made the training fun,” said Emily Hailey, whose first-ever Rangers game came during the 2010 World Series. “Everything they ask you to do is doable. You have to be able to make the balloon animals and that takes a lot of practice. My roommate (Miinch) and I had to go to Party City and we got some balloon animals to practice with.”
Their duties extend beyond the field to season-ticketholder events, foundation events and corporate outings.
The Six Shooter duties extend beyond activities related to the field. They make appearances at season-ticketholder events, Texas Rangers Foundation events and corporate outings as well.
A love for baseball isn’t a requirement, but it certainly helps. That doesn’t seem to be an issue with the Class of 2016.
Zura said that even when the women aren’t working a game, they still often show up and visit with their co-workers. They normally end up sitting in the upper deck and watching baseball just because they love the Rangers.
Having some knowledge about the club also helps on the job.
“You have to know the Rangers,” said Zura, who recently took a job with the Dallas Wings as a partnership service coordinator but plans to continue her Six Shooter duties. “If one of your contestants for a game is a little shy and doesn’t know who his favorite player is, he might know his favorite position.
“When he says that he likes center field, then you can tell them that he’d be a fan of Delino DeShields. It definitely helps.”
As fun as the job is, it does have some hazards. The grass on Greene’s Hill isn’t always dry, so there’s a chance for a slip or two. That wouldn’t be bad if no one could see you. But at a ballpark, that’s a different story.
There’s also that little thing with the heat in the summer. As much moving around as the Six Shooters do, they don’t have it any easier than the team they’re charged with cheering on.
It can be a little tough during the summer when it’s 110 degrees ... It’s just the Texas heat. That comes with the territory.
“It can be a little tough during the summer when it’s 110 degrees and you’re running around smiling,” Monika Hailey said. “But it’s fun. It’s just the Texas heat. That comes with the territory.”
Just like learning the proper way of firing a T-shirt into the stands.