Jai-Alai Chalk Talk Hall of Fame

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One who's been there...

Posted on June 4, 2009 at 11:38:16 AM by 4decadepro

I wanted to take a moment to weigh in. Some of my input may be a little irrevelent but I think to look from all viewpoints is important.

I started playing at the amateur courts in Miami when I was 14. As I moved through the stages of advancing from rubber ball to hard ball court, I was out there having fun and competing with guys mainly a lot older than me. I was naive and didn't realize how much competitive spirit and jealousy was going on around me. I had just as much fun practicing and fooling around on the court as I had playing in leagues and tournaments. I wanted to practice on pro courts but since Miami & Dania didn't allow amateurs, I would travel to Tampa regularly on weekends with some other Miami amateurs, one of few pro courts available for amateurs.

When time for state qualifications came around to determine a team to represent the U.S. in 1968 Olympic exhibition, my pro court experience paid off. After winning and the Olympics, I was asked to turn pro at Miami as the 1st American. Still 16 and naive and learning, I could't understand why some of the amateurs I had fun playing with were now out in the audience at Miami yelling that "I sucked." When I looked at them, they would be laughing and nudging each other as if to suggest what a joke. Soon it got back to me that they were telling other people that since they had played against and beaten me on the amateur courts, it was them that should be playing up on Miami Jai-Alai's court instead of me. I never thought I was up there playing pro because I was superior or favored over any other amateur, but some amateurs didn't see it that way.

I never relayed this experience when I played alongside Joey, Kent, Marshall, Daniel, Benny, Corky and countless other Americans who came along behind me, but I'm sure they experienced it to some degree also. When they came in to play pro, they showed me respect and it was mutual in return from me to any American trying to break into the pro ranks, no matter who beat who or what games we played. Because we had turned pro, it didn't make us automatically think we were better than all other amateurs but to this day, from reading and listening to different forums such as this one, it is clear that some amateurs truly believe they could be putting on a better performance than some pros playing today. That might be the case and if you are really good and persistent, then hopefully it can still happen.

TR, thank you for telling it like it is from a true perspective. I loved playing for 26 years but it wasn't always fun and easy. I played in front of Miami crowds of 14,000 and how they do it now without a crowd amazes me. I don't regret a single day of how fortunate I was to play and love my work for as long as I did, but when someone new asks me how did I get into such a unique sport, my first answer is usually, "right place, right time."


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