Here’s a fun one to discuss during this slight break in the rball tourney schedule; what’s the best Father/Son combo in our sports’ history? How about Husband/Wife or Brother/Sister?
Here’s some opinions on each category from yours truly, with others that I considered. Did I forget someone? Am I totally wrong? Feel free to chime in.
1. Best Husband/Wife combo: Jack Huczek and Christie Van Hees Only husband-wife team where both sides have won tour championships. Both retired way too soon; I would bet money Jack in particular could still be making the back end of pro tournaments if he was still playing (he was born in 1983, so hes younger right now than Kane/Rocky/Alvaro).
There’s actually a slew of Racquetball playing couples with pro experience on both sides … i limited this to just the best and the top 3 honorable mentions. If you want to include the Pratts, Fowlers, Wachtels, Kirches, Hawthornes, or others, I wouldn’t blame you.
Another category where there’s lots of honorable mentions; I left out the Paraisos, the Doyles, Kerrs, and Odegards in particular. I sense there’s a lot of younger players in the junior ranks that could qualify here too.
Lots of good examples of brothers playing right now. Bredenbecks, Murrays, Kurzbards, Garays, Kellers, Acunas, etc. And there might be more in the Latin Americas that i’m not aware of, since there’s so many players with common surnames.
I thought of a few other father/son combos where at least we knew both sides played at a high level (examples: Schopiearys, Ullimans, Elkins). But I couldn’t think of a single instance of a top pro from our entire sport’s history who has a son playing at a high level right now.
With the win, these players qualify to represent the US in this year’s two International Racquetball Federation – IRF events: the Pan American Racquetball Championships in Columbia in April, and the Pan American Games in August in Peru.
Both teams are no strangers to international competition nor National doubles championships: combined these four champions now have an astounding 29 combined US national doubles titles between them.
These titles represent the nth title for each player: – Carson: 11th career National title. He won 6 with Jack Huczek, then has won 1 each now with Ben Croft, Jose Diaz, Jose Rojas, Sudsy Monchik and now Pratt. Rocky won his first title in 2004. He now sits 5th for National doubles titles world-wide. – Pratt: This is his 1st National doubles title; he’s made the semis a few times in the past with various partners in National events, and has one pro IRT doubles title (with Jansen Allen in 2016). – Ruiz: 12th career National title. She won 2 with Laura Fenton, 5 with Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson, and now 5 with Tisinger. She is tied for 3rd globally for National doubles titles with Canadian Jen Saunders. First place is Canadian legend Josee Grand Maitre with 15 career national doubles titles, and 2nd all time is Ruiz’s former partner Paraiso, who has 14. – Tisinger earns her 5th title, all with Ruiz.
Click here for a list of all Amateur national doubles champions for the three major countries: http://rball.pro/4A22B0
Quick summary of the Men’s draw: the semis were chalk according to seeds: there #3 seeded Jake Bredenbeck and Jose Diaz took out #2 seeded Bobby David Horn and Mauro Daniel Rojas to reach the final. There, the two finalists split games and headed to a tie-breaker, eventually taken by the champs 11-7.
Quick summary of the Women’s draw: it was upsets galore here, with the 5th seeded team of Michelle De La Rosa and sister Danielle Maddux upsetting defending champs and #1 seeds Kelani Lawrence and Sharon Jackson in an 11-10 tiebreaker win en route to the final. On the other side, 3rd seeded Ruiz/Tisinger took out 2nd seeded and last year’s finalists Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts in a tiebreaker to get to the final. The final was a 2-game win for the veterans.
—————————– The Tempe event also had a singles component, with players competing for qualifying points towards representing the USA in singles. Here’s a quick run-through these draws:
On the Men’s side, #1 seed Carson topped #2 Pratt in two games to take the draw. There were a few notable upsets by seeds in the earlier rounds (Thomas Carter over Mauro Rojas, and Erik Garcia over Robert Collins being perhaps the biggest), but the semis-onward more or less went as expected.
On the Women’s side, the #1 seed Rajsich also took the draw, taking out #3 seeded Lawrence in a rematch of the last two such National level singles draws. The quarters featured two pretty significant results: Hollie Scott trounced Sheryl Lotts in the quarters, and doubles specialist Tisinger took out #2 seeded Sharon Jackson 11-10.
(Reminder: I do not enter these non-National results into the database).
—————————– Lastly, a bit of opinion expression from yours truly based on a situation that arose and was talked about in some of the FB groups.
This was the USA National Doubles Championships. It determines the United States champions in the various divisions and helps select representatives (in both singles and doubles) of our country in international competitions.
So why were there foreign nationals who represent other countries internationally in the draw?
A bit of history: the “US National championships” were, for a time, open to all countries. In fact, the US National amateur singles champs in 75 and 75 were both Canadians (Wayne Bowes and Lindsay Myers respectively). In 82 the then named “AARA” changed the requirement to have the US national singles only be open for US citizens. This is (coincidentally or not) right around the time that the first “international” championships were held; in the 1970s there was just the tournaments held in the USA, and even the professional year end championships declared “National champions.” I don’t ever recall a situation where there was even a question about someone’s citizenship competing for the USA national team … until now.
It says pretty clearly on the entry form that you have to be a US citizen or “have a citizenship application in process.” Understood; some people hold dual citizenships. But how is it possible we’re letting players who have represented other countries internationally (quite recently) compete in the US championships?
There were three examples of this situation this past weekend: – Sebastian Fernandez: He competed in US team qualifying in doubles. Fernandez represents Mexico in juniors, where he was the runner-up in Junior worlds just last November, entered Mexican National Singles last February, and entered the Mexican World Selection event in June. How is he competing in a tournament to represent the USA just a couple months later? – Erik Garcia: hails from Chihuahua, now attending college in the USA … and represented Mexico in Junior worlds in 2013 and competed in Mexican amateur nationals in 2014. Yet he was entered into BOTH singles and doubles USA national team qualifying events.
(Note: post publishing i’ve been informed that Garcia is in fact a US Citizen, born in US. Which then begs the question; how is he playing in Mexican national events? Its the same issue but perhaps in reverse).
– Melania Sauma Masis: has been representing Costa Rica in various junior and senior events since 2009, including playing in the 2017 PARCs and the 2018 Caribbean games. Clearly grew up in CRC, but now attends the host college of this past event (ASU). Less of an issue for Sauma Masis in that she didn’t compete in the National team events (since the application says that “all other divisions are open to US Citizens and residents) … but she did compete for a “US National title” against US citizens, which some have a problem with.
I get that these players may have dual citizenship, which technically would have allowed them to enter the tourney (it was reported that Fernandez does; but I’m not sure how the other two possibly would). I suppose the bigger question is this: how can someone just switch back and forth like (especially) Fernandez has done? Olympic athletes can switch … but they have to wait a few years in-between competitions. Professional Soccer players can switch from one country to another, but only once, and only before officially representing a country at the senior/adult level (at which point they are permanently “capped” to a specific country).
Internationally, there’s a long history of players switching countries. Among others, Ruben Gonzalez, Veronique Guillemette, Natalia Mendez, Mario Mercado, Maria Jose Vargas, and most recently Brenda Laime have switched countries … but i’m not aware of anyone switching to and back like we’ve now seen out of Fernandez over his career.
To take this to the extreme, consider these hypotheticals. Daniel De La Rosa is married to a US citizen and now lives in Arizona (I have no idea if he now has a US passport, if he’s applied for citizenship, etc; this is a hypothetical). He has always and continues to represent Mexico … but lets say DLR plays in Mexican Nationals in February and gets knocked out early but really wants to go to Peru for the Pan Am games. Would you be ok with him then entering USA nationals in May to try to earn a spot? Also hypothetical: Kane Waselenchuk has now lived in Texas nearly as long as he lived in Canada, and marred a US citizen years ago; would you be ok if he entered US Nationals in May?
I think we need some guidelines going forward, where players have to declare to represent one country or another and stick with it. I’m ok with switching countries, but you have to have a legitimate connection, and you have to “sit out” a period of time to prevent venue shopping for IRF representation.
PS: I want to emphasize this point; i’m not making a political statement here. Its more about the inherent conflict of interest that exists.
Here’s a preview of the Men’s and Women’s National team draws.
In the Men’s Doubles draw: 9 teams competing. One half of the defending champ team is missing this year ( Sudsy Monchik), meaning defending champ Rocky Carson has a new partner: he’s playing with Charlie Prattand they’re seeded #1.
In the semis … – I’ll go with #1 Carson/Pratt over #4 Manilla/Riffel. – I’m predicting an upset by seed: #3 Bredenbeck/Diaz get revenge for last year’s match-up and down Horn/Rojas at this stage instead.
In the finals: Carson/Pratt earn their National team spot with a win over Jake/Diaz in a brutal tiebreaker. ——————-. In the Women’s doubles draw; just 5 teams competing. Last year saw somewhat of a changing of the guard, when 11-time champ Aimee Roehler Ruiz got upset in the semis with her partner Janel Tisinger-Ledkinsand 14-time winner Jacqueline Paraiso-Larsson also getting upset in the semis with her partner Erika Manilla.
In the semis: – #1 and defending champs Kelani Lawrence and Sharon Jackson have their work cut out for them, having to face the (nee) Key Sisters. I’m going to go with Lawrence/Jackson in a tiebreaker to advance back to the finals. – #3 Ruiz and Tisinger face off against the same team that beat them last year at this juncture: #2 seeded Rhonda Rajsich and Sheryl Lotts. Rajsich & Lotts have been playing together nearly all season in LPRT pro doubles and have been playing tough; I think they’ll use that familiarity with each other to advance past the veteran Ruiz/Tisinger team.
In the final: – A rematch of last year’s final, won by Lawrence & Jackson 11-8 in the breaker. I think Rajsich/Lotts turn the tide and take the title.
——————-. There’s also Singles Qualifying draws this weekend (similar to the Canadian National event from last weekend). Here’s a quick preview for this draw, which will help select the Singles team members who represent USA this year at PARC and (more importantly) at the Pan American Games. A big year for International Racquetball Federation – IRF this year.
On the Men’s Singles side: 14 guys playing and some very interesting match-ups. If you wondered what the IRT would look like without any foreign players … take a look at this draw. 10 of the top 11 ranked Americans on the IRT and ever American in the top 25 (save one; Jansen Allen) is here playing.
In the 16s, we see a number of first round match-ups against IRT touring regulars: – Diaz takes on Riffel – Manilla takes on Justus Benson – Rojas takes on Carter – … and we get a unique brother-on-brother match-up between the Bredenbecks (which I’m sure has happened in local tourneys before, but this is a first for a top-level tourney in PRS).
In the Quarters, I’m projecting these matches: – #1 Carson over #9 Collins in their third meeting in as many months. – #5 Diaz over #4 Manilla – #3 Horn vs #6 Jake: these guys have met no less than 16 times in the various pro tours: Jake leads h2h 9-7 in my database and won their most recent meeting … which was more than a year ago. Horn’s been struggling with fitness this year, while Jake has been struggling with results. I’ll go with Jake over Horn in this event in a tie-breaker, thinking perhaps Horn still isn’t 100%. – #2 Pratt over #7 Rojas; they met in December, a straight forward win for Charlie; no reason not to think it’ll happen again.
Projected Semis: – Carson over Diaz in a typical dog-fight. – Pratt over Jake in a tactical masterpiece.
Final: doubles partners face off, with Rocky handling Pratt for the title.
————————- On the Women’s Singles Side, 9 players face off in the Team singles event.
Quarters: – #1 Rajsich over Manilla (who should advance from the sole play-in) – #4 Lotts over Scott – #3 Lawrence over Adrienne Fisher Haynes in what could be a bit closer than you’d think. – #2 Jackson over Tisinger in an interesting match … this might be closer than you’d expect from the 2/7 match=up.
Projected Semis: – Rajsich over her doubles partner Lotts – Lawrence over her doubles partner Jackson.
Finals: we get the final we were robbed of in this singles event last year, when Lawrence’s flights couldn’t get changed and she had to forfeit. These two also met in the US National singles final in May. Rajsich wins, but Lawrence gets valuable points towards qualifying for IRF events later this year.
The long-running Lou Bradley Memorial, held in Sun Prairie, WI was this past weekend. This is the 20th annual event, and the 17th straight year it’s had IRT sanctioning as a lower tier’d event.
See this link from the IRT previewing the event: https://www.irt-tour.com/irt-heading-to-the-prairie-athletic-club/
This event is one of the only events out there that doesn’t utilize the R2sports platform, so draw links and information were scarce. But, here’s a review of the results as I can glean them from pieced-together FB posts (mostly a partial draw sheet from halfway through the event). A reminder; we do not store anything other than IRT Tier 1 and higher events into the Pro Racquetball Stats database; this post is more written as a review of the event and as fans of the game.
In the quarters, Alex Landa beat Iowa top amateur Brad McCunniff, Gerardo Franco took out fellow IRT regular Justus Benson in the 4/5 match, Mario Mercado beat top local Brad Hansen (who we just saw at the Lewis Drug event), and Alvaro Beltran beat Iowa local Derek Ott. Good showing by the top Iowa amateurs in this event.
In the Men’s Pro singles draw final, Alvaro Beltran took out Alex Landa in the final. They advanced through the semis, with Beltran taking out Mario Mercado and Landa taking out Gerardo Franco Gonzalez.
Good win for Beltran and good racquetball for the Sun Prairie racquetball community. Next year lets make this a tier 1! 🙂
The second of two qualifying events was held this past weekend in Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada for top Canadian players to earn points towards qualifying for the National team. Congrats to Samuel Murray and Jen Saunders on their wins on the weekend.
On the Men’s side, the only significant upset of the weekend was #6 Trevor Webb‘s upset of #3 seed Tim Landeryou in the quarters. Webb then took #2 seed Coby Iwaasa to the brink in the semis, falling 11-9. Otherwise the draw mostly went chalk, with the top 2 seeds advancing to the final. This win puts Murray and Iwaasa into the drivers’ seats for National team slots in 2019, in that both players have made the finals in both Selection events thus far.
On the Women’s side, Saunders took advantage of Canadian #1 Frederique Lambert‘s absence and took the draw, giving her a win and a final in the two selection events of the season so far. She topped Christine Richardson in the final after both top seeds advanced through pool play. Richardson lost in the 3rd place game in the first selection event, so this gives her a good result in her quest to make the 2019 International events.
A note: I capture these results, but do not load them to the Amateur database. I realize they’re “important” events … but I only have one “Nationals” per country per year. I’m open to suggestions how to handle issues like this: USA also now has “major” events that also count towards National team qualifying, and Mexico last year had a “Nationals” event … and then a “Worlds Selection event” that ended up having different players then going to Worlds from those who had just won Nationals earlier in the year. I’m not sure there’s a good solution.
Editors Note: this post is not written by me; i’ve cut and pasted this story from the author with his permission and request. As you can read, I tried to help Keith in this journey as best as I could, and with the help of quite a few old-time racquetball players he was able to find answers.
Its a good read and a great testament to the strength of our racquetball community. I highly suggest spending a few minutes reading this story about Keith’s search for his birth father, how it touched more than a few of us in the sport past and present, and the great things that Keith now has in his life going forward.
My name is Keith Koons and I was born in Vero Beach Memorial Hospital on June 17th, 1973. Up until this past year, that was the sole connection that I had to my birth parents since I was adopted at just three days old. I spent a large majority of my life wondering who my parents could actually be, even though I was never the type to really stress over those types of details. I had a great life growing up and countless great friends- [my] adoptive parents are amazing people who gave me everything they could in life.
So to me, this always felt more like a great mystery that would be fun to solve. Who am I? Where did I come from?
Unfortunately though, there was simply no way to solve it without obtaining a court order after a costly battle with the state. So I spent 45 years of my life wondering- does my mom still think of me from time to time? Did my dad even know that I existed at all?
One other little wrinkle to my story is that mom had an affair while separated from her husband. She was young with a small child and a family of her own, still trying to figure things out in life while making her marriage work. Once the pregnancy became known, the husband presented her with an ultimatum- have an abortion or file for divorce. My mom took “option C”, which was to move out on her own, deliver a healthy baby boy into the world and then place him up for adoption…even though it was the toughest possible choice.
Unfortunately, to this day I don’t know what happened next. Did the husband ultimately forgive her? Was my real dad around at all for support? There’s just no way to know.
In the Spring of 2018, a client of mine called and asked if I’d be interested in staying with him in LA for the week to help work on marketing for his upcoming book. At this point of my life I had been working as a freelance copywriter for almost a decade, and I was slowly trying to transition over to being a full time ghostwriter since I love telling stories. So I jumped at the chance to help my friend Steven Griffithwhile taking in the LA culture.
As the week drew to a close, Steven said that he wanted to give me a gift for all my hard work- a DNA kit from 23 & Me. I’ve always been too humble to be an avid gift recipient so I protested at first, but then told Steven a little about my adoption story and how I had always wondered. I was a big guy in high school, 5’ 11” and 220 pounds of lean muscle, but I also had speed as an athlete and an IQ that bordered on genius level.
Could my dad be a professional athlete? That always nagged at me not knowing.
Once he heard my story, Steven absolutely insisted on the DNA kit and I finally relented. After all, I did want some answers…but the prospect of finding those answers was terrifying. I mean, what if my father was a criminal or a legitimately bad person? Did I even want to open that Pandora’s Box and risk the glimpse inside? It might not make a lot of sense on the outside looking in, but sending off that DNA kit was one of the bravest things I have ever done in my entire life.
Once the results arrived, I found links to thousands of relatives with a lineage tracing all the way back to Ireland and beyond. I was Irish? Although it means nothing, it was also the discovery of a lifetime looking over my family tree for the first time. I went from knowing nothing to having thousands of years of ancestry, and I can’t really express in words what that felt like. I experienced every emotion in the spectrum as I absorbed every last piece of knowledge that was available.
The closest relative that I found was a 5% DNA match, making him a 2nd cousin or a 1st cousin once removed (meaning, it was a cousin right around my mom’s age). I reached out and we chatted briefly, but this cousin was in poor health and couldn’t really give any insight. It was mostly a dead end at the time.
About a month later though, I receive a message from 23 & Me in my inbox saying that new relatives have been found. I’ve learned over time that these are just standard monthly emails with no significant meaning, but this one in particular changed my entire universe- there was Greg, a 22.8% match to me that made him my half-brother.
And poof- my mind was 100% blown. Almost 45 years of searching and I find my brother through an app? It felt so random that it was almost impossible to process.
Of course, I immediately reached out and discovered that Greg was also adopted, but his mother knew his birth mom personally and he had extensive details on our father. Most of the written stuff was lost, but Greg told me that our dad was a world championship racquetball player named Steve and he travelled the US in the 1970’s. He couldn’t remember his last name though- and looking back it made this journey 1,000 times more special.
You wouldn’t be reading this today if it wasn’t for that one oversight.
Since I’ve worked as a writer a good portion of my adult life, I instantly hit the net researching world champs from the 70’s named Steve. I came up with a few great candidates on the Pro Racquetball Stats website but quickly realized that I needed an expert in my corner. So on a whim, I sent an email to the site briefly telling my story and asking for some guidance. And within a few days, Todd Boss replied with EXTENSIVE detail on every pro Steve from the 1960’s, 70’s and beyond.
Our leading candidate was none other than Steve “Bo” Keeley, one of the best athletes to ever step on a racquetball court and often considered the forefather of the modern game.
The racquetball connection with my father absolutely meant the world to me because it was one of my favorite pastimes as a teenager. While I never played in serious tournaments, I absolutely fell in love with the game my freshman year in high school since it was a killer cardio workout while having a lot of fun at the same time. I was on an indoor/outdoor racquetball court daily for almost a decade, so discovering that my father could potentially be one of the best that ever played flooded me with emotions that I didn’t know were possible- I was an absolute wreck trying to decide what to do or how to process these details.
For those of you who haven’t kept tabs on Steve Keeley (he now goes by Bo), he’s lived an adventurer’s lifestyle since stepping off the courts in the late 70’s. He went to veterinary college for several years and picked up multiple degrees, but I got the feeling that he simply missed the open road too much. He never was able to hold down a job for more than a few years without getting that itch to head out on a grand adventure.
Since racquetball didn’t have huge sponsorships back in the early 1970’s, Steve and other tour players would often hitchhike between destinations or even hop trains. And during these travels, Steve met countless hobos that would travel the world on mere pennies while living off their charisma and good fortune. Steve was drawn to this lifestyle because it represented everything great about America in that era. While some would view hobos as bums, Steve saw them as the richest men among society because of their true freedom.
Steve eventually settled down in Slab City a number of years ago, which is our country’s last true outlaw town. You can find stories from Steve online discussing accounts of murders, meth-head zombies, the art of robbing your neighbors and too many other unsavory concepts to discuss. Yet this was Bo’s paradise since it was the closest version to the American Dream that he’s been chasing for the past 50 years.
As I’m reading all of these facts on Bo, I’m thinking to myself that there’s no way I could reach out to him- he lives among rapists, drug cartels and murderers. But I did see that he was semi-active on Facebook and couldn’t resist taking a chance- I sent a 3-4 paragraph introduction explaining why I believe that he’s my father. And for the next month, all I heard back was crickets…I figured that he’d never reply. Until he did.
Bo messaged me saying, “I had a vasectomy years ago and don’t have any children. Don’t message me again.”
And just like that, I was heartbroken. My dad wants nothing to do with me and he won’t even acknowledge his son (or sons for that matter, let’s not forget about Greg). So I decided to just let it go and consider that it was the happiest possible ending I was going to get.
Only, Todd Boss contacted me again a few days later with additional news. He told me that there weren’t any pro racquetball tours in the Vero Beach area in 1972, so Bo wasn’t as solid of a candidate as we thought. Since he was hopping trains back then there’s an outside chance that he had a layover in that area and met my mom, but it sure didn’t feel like an ironclad fit. Maybe we were looking at the wrong world champion named Steve…
Then came the golden nugget of wisdom from Todd that I desperately needed- had I considered amateur players? They could also be known as world champions within their circles.
Unfortunately, Todd’s site didn’t have statistics for amateur play back in the 1970’s, but he agreed to keep searching while asking a few of the top pros if they had any ideas. This story is as much Todd Boss’s journey as it is mine because he went so far above and beyond for a complete stranger.
But the more I searched, the more I realized that the racquetball community from the 70’s and 80’s is a family in their own right, with everyone happy to help and reminisce during my own journey.
My friends, I talked to dozens of the best early players that had ever picked up a racquet and these were folks calling me out of the kindness of their heart, super eager to step in and provide assistance however they could. Every contact led to five more people to talk to, with more calls and emails flooding in by the hour.
I truly felt like racquetball royalty in that stretch and eventually decided that my search was finished- all of these great professional athletes were my new family. It just didn’t make sense to keep searching since I had ultimately found something even better than I was looking for.
Before I could completely close the book on my adoption journey though, there was one email left to send- Bo Keeley. I messaged him apologizing for what must have been a shocking email a month before, and I told him Todd’s new theory of my dad being a top amateur. And Bo replied almost instantly with two messages- first claiming that he could in fact be my dad (he wasn’t) and second, to introduce me to one of his friends named Scott…a Florida amateur player with a photographic memory that definitely would have met my dad.
Truthfully, I can’t tell you how the next few days unfolded. There were dozens of emails from Bo, Scott, Todd and others, plus I knocked out countless research on my own.
Through that process I eventually found my dad- Steve Chapman, a world champion amateur that was born and raised in Vero Beach, Florida. It was bittersweet though because Steve had passed away over 25 years ago from a brain tumor.
I will add this though- Bo and several others told me that my dad was right on the verge of being a professional. He had every shot in the book down pat but even more importantly, he was a fantastic athlete that would simply outwork you on the court. Even in series where he was clearly outmatched or outclassed, he would push you to the point of exhaustion and slowly creep back in the match.
However, there were a few more wrinkles to this story. While I was researching Steve Chapman, I found an old newspaper article that interviewed his nephew Shane in the late 1990’s. Steve was Shane’s idol growing up and he grew up fascinated by his accomplishments, taking up the game at an early age and quickly becoming a top-ranked amateur himself. Shane still travels Florida to this day playing in local tournaments.
My first phone conversation with Shane was awesome- we have a lot in common and instantly shared a bond. As I was hearing his story though and picturing my dad mentoring him, it was probably the only time in this journey were I let jealousy get the better of me. I couldn’t help but think, “Man, that should have been my life…why did Steve take that from me?”
The feeling quickly passed though because as I said earlier, I really don’t have any complaints how my first 45 years turned out. I really can’t name a single point of my life where I wasn’t happy.
I did get to drive down to Vero Beach to meet Shane and a few other relatives in person this past Fall, plus I still chat with Bo Keeley from time to time about whatever he currently finds interesting in life. Bo has unofficially adopted me as his son and since he’s currently working on a book about Slab City; we will possibly get together in the next few months so I can help him edit it. I’ve introduced Bo to an agent as well…the same agent that handled my friend Steven Griffith’s book out in LA at the very start of this story.
If the first Stephen didn’t buy me that DNA kit, I never would have had two dads named Steve in the racquetball hall of fame. How ironic is that? My journey literally went full circle in the span of four months.
What does this story mean? I don’t know…nothing. Everything. It’s the story of me but it’s also so much more than that because of my ties to racquetball and all the fantastic people I’ve met along the way. Bo Keeley is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met in my life and I’m proud to think of him as my dad- I think we’ll become great friends in the waning years of his life. He’s still in fantastic shape though and walks miles daily through the desert- he’ll probably outlive us all.
Steve Bo Keeley is completely free and living life 100% on his own terms- there’s something all of us can learn from his unconventional lifestyle.
I also owe a massive “thank you” to Todd Boss- I promised to write this story for his readers since it was the only thing I could think of as a pitiful form of compensation for his countless hours of research. I’ve never met him in person or even talked on the phone, but Todd will always be my brother from here on out. Maybe he didn’t think of his help as a big deal but it was absolutely life-changing for several of us.
The one final chapter to this story is my half-brother Greg. He was a basketball prodigy in high school with multiple division I scholarship offers. Unfortunately, he fell into the wrong crowd and he’s spent most of his adult life in and out of Florida prisons. He genuinely seems like a good person at heart though and he’s moving in with me next month, so I can teach him marketing and show him a different path in life. If you’re the God-fearing type, maybe throw a prayer or two our way as my family helps him start a brand new chapter in life.
Who knows, I may even bring him out to the racquetball courts with our cousin Shane so he can see where we actually came from. After all, the sport is definitely in our blood.
To the entire racquetball community- from all the former world champions to aspiring players who just bought their first racquet last week, I want to say thank you for being a crucial part of revealing my life’s story. All told, I spoke with over 50 current/former players and each of you were absolutely amazing. Under different circumstances, I would have loved to document all the incredible stories that were shared about your life on tour, the camaraderie among professionals and just great memories.
I was simply in a state of information overload at the time and couldn’t process it all…but I do want you to know how much I genuinely appreciate each and every one of you. So thank you, my friends, and please don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s anything I can do to ever return the favor.
Quick post to talk about some of the “sausage making” behind Pro Racquetball Stats. The site generates very long URLs to call reports, which is good and bad. Its good in that I can cut and paste URLs directly to data, which I couldn’t do for years, and you can “edit” the URLs to quickly pull up a different report without going back to the selection page, but bad in that the URLs are long, complicated and often get truncated or cut off when cutting and pasting in posts.
Earlier this year, Wayne Saucier (who designed the UI/UX updates to the site and who figured out we could even do the URL posting in the first place) had a great suggestion; register a “short URL” service and utilize it for these direct links into the system instead of the longer URLs i’ve been using. As it turned out, “rball.pro” was available so we grabbed it. Wayne then built a short-URL generation service for the rball.pro domain.
I’d like to announce the first implementation release of this service officially. Now, instead of using a URL like this:
I’ve been incorporating these short URLs into posts for a few weeks now; i just wanted to make an official announcement and recognize Wayne’s efforts.
Furthermore, we could eventually use rball.pro for non ProRacquetballStats.com URLs too; for example, here’s a rball.pro link that goes to the very long r2sports.com URL for the Lewis Drug singles pro bracket: http://rball.pro/D344CC . Just like other “short URL” services (bit.lybeing the most popular), anything can be shortened through Wayne’s code.
In fact, we hope other Rball associations may like this service and make use of it themselves in the future.
We hope this makes reading PRS posts and navigating our content a little easier going forward. Eventually we will incorporate rball.pro throughout the site more completely as a service.
Thanks to Wayne for the idea and the work on this!
With this win, Paola extends some current personal records: – This is her 88th win in the PRS database – She extends her current match winning streak to 29 – She makes it 6 wins out of 6 tournaments on the season. – She’s built a nearly insurmountable lead over #2 Salas for the current season rankings, leading her by near 900 rankings points.
Here’s a review of the draw, highlighting notable results by round:
In the 32s; – Kelani Lawrence got a solid win over LPRT touring vet Maria Renee Rodríguez in four games. – Natalia Mendez took out Mary Mary Dee Kirchoff in three straight; this was a notable match up in that Kirchoff is literally three times Mendez’ age. Bravo for still competing in your 60s on tour. – Youngster Ana Laura Flores took out veteran Susy Acosta in four close games. – Biggest upset of the round: collegiate player Hollie Rae Scott took out the 39 seed Cristina Amaya 12-10 in the 5th. Career win for Scott.
In the 16s, mostly chalk and easy wins for the top seeds, but a couple of matches worth noting. – #5 Rhonda Rajsich had to face her doubles partner in Sheryl Lotts and won in three games. (Sheryl went on to take the Women’s Open draw 11-10 in a thrilling tiebreaker win over Amaya). – #3 Alexandra Herrera was donuted in the second game against Lawrence …then donuted her right back and won by the unique scores of 8,(0),0,8. Its not often you see someone both give and take a donut in a match. – But the big upset of the round was #10 Adriana Riveros taking out #7 Natalia Mendez 11-7 in the breaker.
In the Quarters… – #1 Paola Longoria advanced in 3 games over the woman who vanquished her in last year’s worlds final Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez 8,8,6. This is the third time they’ve met on tour this year, all 3 game wins for the champ. Longoria improves to 15-1 career h2h over Martinez in all competitions, making last year’s worlds final look like the aberration, not the predictor. – #4 Maria Jose Vargas took revenge over last tourney’s loss to Rajsich, beating her in four games to take the slim lead in their h2h matchups. – #6 Nancy Enriquez advanced to just her 3rd career semi-final with a come-from-behind win over #3 Herrera. Enriquez dropped the first two games, then blitzed by Herrera in games four and five, 2 and 1 respectively to advance. – #3 Samantha Salas Solis fought off the upset-minded Riveros 6,9,4 to try to continue her finals streak on tour this season.
In the semis… – #1 Longoria improved to 31-1 all time in all competitions over Vargas, though she had to come from a game down to do it. – #2 Salas improved to 6-2 all time in all competitions over Enriquez, but not without having to work for it, coming from 2-1 games down to win in a tiebreaker.
In the final: – Longoria improved to 55-3 all time over her doubles partner Salas with a relatively straight forward 1,2,6 three game win. Salas never seemed like she was a threat to Longoria on this day, leaving opportunities up and quickly becoming frustrated with her opponent’s consistency.
———————- In doubles, Longoria made it a double, winning the doubles title with her finals opponent Salas over the Argentine national doubles team of Vargas/Mendez.
As with Singles, Paola has now won all 6 pro doubles events this season, 5 of them with Salas. Longoria improves to 109-5 in pro doubles since we started tracking it in 2013, winning 38 of the 43 doubles events she’s now entered.
The LPRT is back in action, with its 6th event of the 2018-19 season. So far, #1 ranked Paola Longoria has made it 5 for 5 in wins, with four of those wins coming over her frequent doubles partner Samantha Salas Solis.
The annual event in South Carolina is a Grand Slam, and as such has drawn back into play a couple of intriguing players, which should make this draw more interesting than most. There’s 26 pros in the draw, tying a season non US Open high.
Top 20 players missing: #5 Frederique Lambert who has fallen to her lowest ranking on tour since Nov 2015 as she juggles school and some early upsets in previous events. #11 Carla Muñoz Montesinos misses just her 2nd tourney in the last two seasons. #13 Jessica Leona Parrilla remains on the sidelines recovering from her knee injury suffered last spring. And lastly #18 Yazmine Sabja Ráquetboldid not make the long flight. So we have 9 of the top 10, and 16 of the top 20 in the event.
Notably present is reigning World Champ Ana Gabriela Gaby Martinez, who is back and ranked #9 (likely seeded 8th) after making the semis in the first two events of the season and then missing the next three.
Lets preview the draw.
Notable round of 32 matches; there’s a ton of tough openers in this tourney.
– #16 vs #17 Masiel Rivera Oporto versus Brenda Laime Jalil; tough match for both ladies right out of the gate. Both players are playing the tour full time this year and are both looking for a breakthrough win. And … they’re playing doubles together. – #14 vs #19: Maria Renee Rodríguez faces Kelani Lawrence in another tough opener for both. Lawrence has less pro experience but has proven her mettle in the USA amateur draws, while Rodriguez has a ton of international experience and has represented Guatemala in Juniors and Adult draws for nearly a decade. – Cassandra Lee vs Laura Brandt: youth versus experience here in an intriguing first rounder. – #10 Adriana Riveros versus #23 Cecilia Ceci Orozco Pratt: Riveros should prevail but she probably would have hoped for an easier first rounder. – #15 Susana Susy Acosta vus #18 Ana Laura Flores : two Mexican lefties representing the two major Rball-playing communities (Chihuahua and San Luis Potosi) in the country battle it out in the first round. They met at the US Open with the youngster coming out on top and I’d lean that way again.
Round of 16 interesting matches: – #8 vs #9: Cristina Amaya Cris vs Ana Gabriela Martinez: tough match-up for both players. They met at this stage in this event three years ago, an Amaya win, but Martinez has a whole lot of silverware since. – #3 Alexandra Herrera vs the Rodriguez/Lawrence winner: i’m not sure who comes out of the feed-in match, but Herrera will have to hustle to advance out of the 16s. Ironically, Herrera topped both possible players in successive rounds as she was winning the 2011 Junior Girls 16U championship. – #7 Natalia Mendez vs #10 Adriana Riveros: these two top 10 players have only met once on tour; a 4-game Mendez win in June 2017. – #2 Samantha Salas vs #18 Flores: assuming Flores comes out on top in the 32s, she gets a first shot at Salas in any competition. Flores can beat top talent, but i’m not sure she can beat one of the top 2 players in the world.
Projecting the Quarters: – #1 Paola Longoria vs #8 Gaby Martinez; These two have met no less than 15 times in pro and IRF matches … but it was last summer’s World Championships that gave Martinez her one win in the series. Since then, they’ve met twice in the LPRT, both straight-forward Longoria wins. I see the same result here; Paola is just so dominant in the 5-game format. – #4 Maria Jose Vargas vs #5 Rhonda Rajsich; these two have now met 28 times (26 on LPRT) and are dead even. 14 and 14 each. Along that same line, they’ve met twice this season … and split, Vargas winning in Chicago and Rhonda winning in Laurel. I’ll predict Rajsich makes it two tourneys in a row. – #3 Herrera vs #6 Nancy Enriquez; Despite being the higher seed, Enriquez faces the easier path to the quarters in this event. But Herrera owns the career h2h record 5-1, just beat her in Boston, and should advance again. – #2 Salas vs #7 Mendez; they’ve got a scant 3 career match-ups, all three straight-game wins for Salas. She makes it 4 of 4.
Semis: – Longoria over Rajsich. Despite Rhonda’s demonstrated ability to still be able to top Paola, their only meeting on the pro tour in the last two seasons was a straight-game semis win in December. Expect the same here. – Salas over Herrera; they’ve already met twice in the semis this season, and both times Salas advanced.
Finals: Longoria over Salas. You hate rooting for #1 vs #2, but these two players have represented the final in 4 of the 5 events so far this season … and the only one where it wasn’t Longoria v Salas was an event where Salas couldn’t make the tourney b/c of travel issues.
—————————- In the doubles, we have some frequently-seen teams playing, including the reigning USA national champs Lawrence/Sharon Jackson, the US National runners-up in Rajsich and Lotts, The top team of Longoria & Salas, the Argentinian national team of Vargas & Mendez, and the Columbia team of Amaya & Riveros. Interestingly the top Guatemalans are not playing together this event.
I’m going with the top Mexicans versus the Argentinians in the final, with Longoria & Salas continuing their dominance with the win.
In the 32s, a couple of surprises for this observer: – Lukas Le took out Alexi David Cocco Hayes in a tie-breaker. – Nico Miramontes downed fellow Mexican 18U player Mauricio Delgadillo 11-9 in the breaker. – Erik Garcia took out Sebastian Longoria, who is still playing in 16U, in two straight.
————- In the 16s… – Edson Martinez saved match point against before advancing against long time Japanese International player Hiroshi Shimizu. – Javier Estrada upset #3 seeded IRT regular Justus Benson in two straight, an unfortunate underseeding match-up that cost Benson a too-tough early round match.
10 of the 16 players in the round of 16 were Mexican … and all 8 of the quarterfinalists also hailed from south of the border.
—————— Next up for the WRT? No idea. The website is back up, but still shows data and tourneys from 2017 (which seems to indicate to me they suffered a pretty significant data crash and restored a very old backup). In 2018, the next event after the Longhorn Open wasn’t until May (the Georgia Open in Atlanta). Lets hope we get some announcements soon.