Teens have a ball at US Open tryouts

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Arabella Chane, 14, of Great Neck, L.I., chases a tennis ball during ballperson tryouts. Photo by Christina Santucci

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By Ivan Pereira
Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hundreds of eager tennis fans from all over braved rainy weather at Flushing Meadows Corona Park last Thursday to try their best to capture a summer job that puts them front and center court during the US Open.

The applicants, who came in all ages and from all backgrounds, hustled, waited and hustled again before a panel of experienced court members during the annual tryouts for a ballperson position during the summer tennis tournament.

Nearly 500 participants, mostly teens, were highly competitive for the 80 to 100 open spots and were anxious to be part of the US Open experience.

“It’ll be good to work next to the athletes and watch how they play,” said 14-year-old Julia Vennitti of Douglaston, who was trying out for the first time.

Participants were separated into three groups: ballpersons who wanted to serve the back court and collect the balls that end up outside the court during serves, ballpersons who collected the balls that hit the net and those who were interested in both positions.

The judges, who include former ballpersons, instructed the applicants that the job is harder than it looks on television, because they not only need to get on and off the court as fast as possible, but to think on their toes and grab and throw the ball as soon as possible.

The physical demands were not challenging to some of the applicants who had sports backgrounds and had trained for the tryout.

Zen Anton-Paultre, 16, of Forest Hills, said the discipline he has learned while practicing the Brazilian martial art of Capoeira has helped him.

“It feels like a great opportunity, and I think I’m ready for it,” he said.

Victor Parraga, 16, of Queens Village, who plays soccer and runs track at St. Mary’s High School, said he did not do any special training but was excited about the opportunity of working for two weeks at one of the most popular sporting events in the world.

“It’s the US Open,” he said. “It’s the one everyone watches.”

Veteran ballpersons said that being the best at the craft meant putting away that pride. Mark Menedez, 22, of Bayside, has been working the US Open for the last 13 years and said the one thing the tournament’s administrators value is courtesy to the people on the court.

“You’ve got to have a professional attitude if you’re going to make it,” he said.

His fellow ballperson, Jesse Smith, 22, who plays on Queens College’s tennis team, said the job goes a long way because one gets to see aspects of the game that no TV broadcast or even a stadium ticket can give.

“It does give you a lot of insight [into] techniques,” he said.

Two applicants said they wanted to show the world some of their skills.

Denise Castell, 25, of New Jersey, and Colin Gooley, of upstate New York, both lost their right legs, but that has not stopped them from playing sports.

Castell, who had to have her limb amputated due to an injury she suffered while playing softball in high school, said despite her handicap she still strives for the best.

“We share a mutual goal of showing a new image of disability,” she said.

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 30th, 2011 at 9:22 pm and is filed under Feature, Print Articles, Sports, TimesLedger. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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