If the National Football League wants to conduct a thorough probe into allegations that the New England Patriots intentionally deflated footballs during Sunday’s AFC Championship win over the Indianapolis Colts, it should probably give Bethany Hammond a call.

Why would league authorities want to contact a 15-year-old high school sophomore from Belgrade?

Because Bethany was the official Patriots ball girl before the game, and she’s probably the only person outside of the players or officiating crew who got a chance to hold the pigskins in question.

Asked Monday afternoon if she’d heard about the controversy, Bethany said, “Briefly, but it’s just kind of funny they would bring that up.”

Reports surfaced early Monday that the NFL was looking into whether the Patriots under-inflated footballs that they used when their offense was on the field Sunday. By NFL rules, game balls must be inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch of air. An under-inflated football is considered easier to grip. Each team must provide 12 balls for testing prior to the game, per NFL rules.

Bethany’s family, including father Mike, vice-president of Hammond Lumber, mother Amy and 17-year-old sister Sadie, watched the game as guests of the Cross family from Bangor-based Cross Insurance’s suite at Gillette Stadium. At each Patriots home game, Cross Insurance picks someone to be the official ball kid.


They invited Bethany — a sophomore at St. Dominic Academy in Auburn — earlier last week to run the game ball onto the field before kickoff.

Bethany and Sadie got to watch pre-game warmups from the Colts sideline. Bethany, whose favorite player is quarterback Tom Brady, was given the No. 11 jersey of wide receiver Julian Edelman to wear on the field.

“They escorted us down to the field, and we got to watch the players warm up,” Bethany said. “We waited in the tunnel, then they gave me the game ball and I ran out to the 20 (yard line) and handed it to the Patriots mascot (Pat Patriot).”

“It was pretty crazy. It was so exciting,” she said. “I couldn’t really hear anything because I was so zoned in.”

Bethany said she didn’t notice anything suspicious about the football she carried onto the field. She wasn’t sure if or when the ball was used during the game, although she admitted she was too caught up in the moment to keep track of what happened to it once it got into the mascot’s hands.

“Everyone was crazy,” she said. “Once you got down to the field, the energy was really insane.”


Bethany was under a lot of pressure to deliver the game ball cleanly, especially from her father and sister.

“We kept giving her crap during the day that she must ‘do her job’ and not fumble or she would be in (coach Bill) Belichick’s doghouse and get the game started off on the wrong foot,” said Mike Hammond, invoking one of Belichick’s favorite phrases.

Bethany, who reached the state high school tennis championships last spring as a freshman, executed the run and handoff flawlessly.

This was the second Patriots game Bethany has seen in Foxborough. She attended the Patriots’ 43-21 win over Denver on Nov. 2.

She’s hoping to go to Super Bowl XLIX, which pits the Patriots against the Seattle Seahawks, on Feb. 1 in Phoenix, Ariz. But it’s unlikely even that could top Sunday’s experience.

“It was something I could never forget,” she said. “The vibe of everyone in the stadium was incredible.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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