In addition to Mexican Nationals and High School Nationals, there were a couple of lower-tier IRT events this past weekend. This is a wrap-up of the best of them, the Pueblo Athletic Club Shoot out, a Tier 4 held in Pueblo, CO that featured a few familiar names and a couple of surprising results.
Reminder: we don’t load non-tier 1 or higher events into the PRS database; this post is just a wrap-up as a fan of the game. I’ll pick up the draw reviews at the latter stages when the familiar pro names start playing each other.
———– Men’s Pro Singles:
The draw featured 30 players, and its top 4 seeds were tour regulars that included #1 Kane Waselenchuk. David Horn, defending champ Jake Bredenbeckand Nick Riffel formed the top four seeds. This is notable to me because I can’t recall seeing Kane play in a non Tier-1 IRT tournament in .. well a long time. It may be b/c I don’t generally track non-Tier1 events.
The 5th seed is the dangerous Erik Garcia, who beat touring pro Robert Collins before taking a game off of eventual champ Rocky Carson at the US Singles qualifier event in Tempe last month. The rest of the draw featured mostly local players, with a sprinkling of traveling players w/ enough IRT points to rate a seeding.
In the Quarters. a couple of surprises: – Erik Garcia got a solid win over touring pro Nick Riffel in a tiebreaker in the 4/5 match. He earns a match against the King in the semis. I’d like to see Garcia play more pro events; he’s got some good results lately and I think he could make some noise on tour. – Complete unknown (to me) Ruben Baez ousted #3 seed Jake Bredenbeck 10,(5),5. I can’t find Baez playing any match in any format that the PRS database tracks, and he was seeded 27th in this event, traveling up from El Paso to play it. I saw bits and pieces of this match: Baez plays a control game, has a very effective lob serve, and was completely non-plussed by Jake’s power, re-killing power DTL shots and anticipating power-pinches. He earns a match-up against #2 seeded Horn in the semis for his efforts.
In the Semis: – Waselenchuk took out Garcia 8,3. Garcia kept up with the champ briefly, but eventually fell in typical Kane dominance. – Horn took out the upstart Baez by the close scores of 13,14. Thanks to Matt Melster for streaming this one real-time; I watched part of this match as well to see how Baez matched-up with the different playing style of Horn, one which was much closer seemingly to his own … and as expected this was a very back-and-forth close match throughout.
In the Final, Kane turned up the heat and cruised by Horn 7,0, showing his typical dominance that the rest of the IRT tour sees on a regular basis.
———– My take-away here: it isn’t often that a player just shows up without any prior pro experience and plays so well against two of the top 20 players in the world. I hope to see more of Baez in the future.
Men’s Pro Doubles:
The Pueblo supporters were also blessed to have with them one of the two best doubles teams in the world. Kane teamed up with Ben Croft, and they’ve won more than a few major doubles titles in their day. They were the #1 seed, with Jake & Horn teaming up to be the #2 seeds and Riffel/Garcia being the #3 seeds.
In the semis, Bredenbeck/Horn took out Riffel/Garcia 11-9, while Kane/Ben took out the team with the surprising Baez teamed with Daniel Bautista.
In the Saturday night final, the #1 team did not disappoint and won in two 10,5 over the #2 seeds.
The also played doubles and had team competitions; see the R2sports link for all the results.
420 entrants this year, a great number and a great job to all those organizers and sponsors who really worked to make this a fantastic event. Congrats to all.
A quick reminder: we do not currently have High Schools or Intercollegiates in the database. This is just a wrap up as a fan of the game.
Quick wrap-up of the Two Singles events:
——————— In the Boys Gold #1:
The semis comprised the #1, #2, #5 and #6 seeds. – #5 seeded Lucas Shoemaker got a Injury win over #4 Andrew Gleason, the World runnerup in 14-U this past summer. Shoemaker made the quarters of US 18U this past summer before losing to the now-graduated Dane Elkins. – #6 Vedant Chauhan, who owns 3 USA junior titles and is playing in his 14U season, advanced over #35 seed Robert Arellano, who had previously topped the #3 seed Cody Boucher in an earlier round.
In those semis: – Seven-time junior USA champ #1 Antonio Rojas topped #5 Shoemaker, in a rematch of last year’s USA 16U quarters, 6,13. – #6 Chauhan easily downed #2 seed Cayden Aikens 8,6. Aikens made the finals of USA 16U and the quarters of 16U worlds last year. Chauhan is having an excellent tournament and will be a tough out in the final.
In the final, #1 Rojas ran away from Chauhan in game one and held on in game two for a two-game championship win 2,12. Rojas’ win means that the last six HS National boys champions hailed from California schools, a list that includes Rojas’ brother Mauro Rojas, and means that California prep players have now won 8 of the 32 historical HS national titles.
——————- In the Girls Gold #1:
The semis were the #1, #2, #4 and #6 Seeds. – #6 Arya Cyril upset #3 seeded Erin Slutzky, the finalist at 2018 16U, in an 11-9 tiebreaker.
In those Semis: – #1 seed Annie Roberts, the reigning USA 16U champ and also the defending High School champ, topped #4 seed Alondra Canchola in a rematch of the 2018 16U quarters 3,8. – #2 seed Nikita Chauhan, who owns two US junior titles and who made the 18U final in 2018, topped #6 Cyril by the skin of her teeth: 14,(8),10.
In the Final, #1 Seed Roberts defending her title, downing Chauhan 6,9 in the final. Robert’s titles continues dominance of this event by Oregon-based prep players: 11 of the 32 National HS titles have been won by players from Oregon. Roberts also becomes the first player to repeat as HS National champion since 4-time HS champ Lexi York held the title between 2012-2015.
Congrats to your 2019 Mexican National Team, set to represent Mexico at both the International Racquetball Federation – IRF major events this year: – Men Singles Finalists: Alejandro Landa & Alvaro Beltran – Women Singles finalists: Montserrat Mejia & Paola Longoria – Men’s Doubles champions: Rodrigo Montoya & Javier Mar – Women’s Doubles champions: Paola Longoria & Samantha Salas
In the 32s…there were no major upsets, no amazing #32 over #1 upsets like we’ve seen in the past. Best matches of the round: – Jaime Martell Neri topped Eduardo Lalo Portillo with a solid 10,7 win to avenge a h2h loss at Monterrey mid last year. – Alvaro Beltran cruised by Polo Polito Gutierrez 4,13 to avoid an early upset. – Gerardo Franco Gonzalez got a solid win, topping the hot Ernesto Ochoa 13,10 for the upset by seed, if perhaps not by talent.
In the 16s… – #1 seed Daniel De La Rosa overcame a slow start to get past Rodolfo Esparza 12,8. – 2-time WRT champ #9 seed Alejandro Alex Cardona pasted Sebastian Fernandez 6,4 to advance to the quarters. This result surprised me; usually 8/9 match-ups are close, and Fernandez has a number of solid showings on tour lately while Cardona has stepped back a bit from touring … but this is a dominant win. – Former world #1 Alex Landacruised by the over-seededChristian Longoria9,6 to setup an excellent quarters match with Mar. – #4 Seed Javier Mar blew out #13 seeded Martell in the first, but then it turned into the close match we expected and he held on for the win 2,(14), 7 – #14 Beltran, as under-seeded in this draw as Landa, was calm and collected while controlling his match against #3 Andree Parrilla, advancing in two games that probably weren’t as close as the scores suggest (8,13). – #22 seed Gerardo Franco beat #6 seed Javier Estrada 11-10 in a marathon match that featured the players diving on nearly every point. Two really solid wins in a row for Franco here over two solid players. – #10 seed Alan Natera Chavez saved match point against and advanced over #7 seeded Edson Martinez in another 2-hour marathon (9),14,6. – Reigning World Champ and #2 seed Rodrigo Montoya Solis raced past the veteran Javier Moreno 3,4.
Quarter final seeds: #1, #2, #4 … then #9, #10, #12, #14, and #22. When 5 of your top 8 seeds fall, you know the seeds were out of whack.
In the Quarters: – #1 DLR had to work for it, topping #9 Cardona in a drawn-out tiebreaker. Final score: 12,(13),3. A solid tourney for Cardona, who has really limited his tourney playing schedule lately but looked great this weekend. – #12 Landa played a complete game and advanced over #4 seed Javier Mar in two straight games. Landa was in control throughout, was playing his typical crisp shots and Mar could do little to turn the tides. I predicted Landa to fall at this gate, the third tourney in a row where i’ve called for his upset early. From now on, i’ll take the opposite of what I think for Landa predictions 🙂 – #14 Beltran played his typical controlled match and outlasted #22 Gerardo Franco 8,13. Beltran has really played well so far this event, playing smart, controlling racquetball and outlasting younger and (perhaps) better players. – In the upset of the event, #10 Natera topped #2 seed and presumptive favorite to return to the finals for the 3rd major Mexican Singles event in a row Rodrigo Montoya 9,9. This marks the second National singles finals in a row that Natera has made the semis in, both times as a drastic underdog and with significant wins over major players. If you’ve never heard of Natera it is understandable; he has yet to play in a single IRT event.
Montoya’s loss means that Mexico will have a new singles representative in this year’s PanAms/Pan Am Games, and that Montoya will not have a chance to defend his 2018 World title in the next set of international events.
So your semis are #1, … and #10, #12 and #14 seeds. Mexican Nats always seems to bring out the upsets.
In the Semis… – #12 Landa was in control from the start and never seemed in jeopardy of losing to his long-time rival #1 De La Rosa, hitting shot after shot and advancing 11,10. Landa improves to 7-5 in all top-level competitions against DLR. Landa returns to the finals for the first time since 2017, and returns to the Mexican National team for the first time since he won the 2017 PARC tournament. – #14 Beltran dominated his semis match against upset-minded #10 Natera, advancing to his first Mexican final since 2015. This will also be the first time he has represented Mexico in singles since that 2015 year, where he made the quarters of PARC and the finals of the Pan Am Games.
So the final ends up being the #12 and #14 seeds, ironically the two players I called out as being most under-seeded in this event in the preview. Coincidentally, if you’re wondering how i’d have seeded this draw, I’d have gone DLR, Montoya, Landa, Parrilla, Beltran, Mar, Cardona, Natera. Maybe we’d still have the same final, maybe not. The top three guys in Mexican racquetball all seem capable of beating each other week in, week out.
In the Final, Landa controlled his long-time rival Beltran, dominating in the final for (what I believe is) his first Mexican National title 8,7.
In the 16s… a couple of notable matches: – #9 Ana Laura Flores raced past #8 seed Erin Rivera 11,3. – In her return to the court after 8 months off, #5 Jessica Leona Parrilla split two games with her fellow LPRT touring pro (and drastically under-seeded) Alexandra Herrera before running out of gas and falling in a tie-breaker 13,(11),0. – #13 Montserrat Perez waxed #4 Diana Aguilar 10,3, and in doing so confirmed that the 5/12 and 4/13 match-ups probably should have been reversed seed-wise
In the Quarters: – #1 Paola Longoria dominated the youngster lefty #9 Flores 7,2 – #12 Herrera cruised past #13 Perez in two 11,5 – #6 Monste Montse Mejia got one of the best wins of her career, coming back from a game down to move past #3 Nancy Enriquez (10),4,6. – #2 Samantha Salas Solis advanced past the veteran #7 Susana Acosta in two 7,2
So your semis seeds are #1, #2, #6 and #12. Not too bad, since the #12 seed probably should have been the #4 seed.
In the Semis, we saw a couple of regular LPRT match-ups: – #1 Longoria waxed #12 Herrera 4,3. They’ve played 12 times (10 times on the LPRT) and Longoria has now won all 12. Longoria returns to the Mexican National team in search of extending her current IRF title record of 17 international titles. She’ll get two more shots in 2019. – #6 Mejia got her second major upset in a row, downing #2 Salas in relative ease 11,4. This was a rematch of last year’s quarters, a close Salas win, and now Mejia has earned her first Adult national team appearance.
In the Final, Mejia shocked the racquetball world and took out the world #1 Longoria in two games 8,14. She accomplished the unique task of defeating the #1, #2 and #3 players in the draw on the weekend, and now holds simultaneously both the Adult and 18U Mexican National titles.
A huge upset in the semis, when the #4 team of Landa/Cardona upset the reigning pro and world champion #1 seeded team of DLR/Beltran, knocking them out of the international events for 2019. On the other side, the #2 team of Montoya/Mar fought off the tough #3 team of Parrilla/Martinez to play for the National team berth.
In the final: the two teams traded games before Montoya/Mar caught fire in the tie-breaker to win 11-0 and clinch their first national doubles title and berths in Columbia & Peru later this year.
The semis went according to seeding, though the #2 team of Longoria/Salas was taken to tiebreaker by the young Rivera/Perez team before advancing. The #1 defending champs Herrera//Mejia fought off the #4 team of Parrilla/Enriquez 11,12 to advance to the final to defend their title and national team berth.
In that final, Longoria/Salas got revenge for last year’s finals defeat and took out the #1 seeds 13,5 to clinch the IRF berths for 2019.
This is the singular tournament (at least as far as I read the website) that will determine Mexico’s team that will play both the Pan Am Racquetball championships in Columbia in April and the Pan Am Games in Peru in August. Both singles finalists and the winning doubles team will represent the country. So this is a pretty big event for Mexican players.
———————– This is one of my favorite tourneys of the year to cover. We generally get the full force of the current state of Mexican racquetball in one place, all competing to represent the country at future International Racquetball Federation – IRF events. It isn’t like International Racquetball Tour events, where several of the top Mexican players rarely play, and it isn’t like the World Racquetball Tour where the top Mexicans committed to the IRT cannot play. Its everybody.
The Men’s draw features 34 players this year, and it is a who’s who of Mexican male singles players. The only men missing from my personal top 50 I see are Eduardo & Rodrigo Garay and Jordy Alonso. Even Javier Moreno came out of “retirement” to play the singles draw.
As always with Mexican National events, I find myself questioning the seeding. The Men’s draw is seeded 1-4 DLR, Montoya, Parrilla, Mar, which is fine and defend-able based on talent, past results and the RKT rankings. But 5-8 goes Longoria, Estrada, Martinez and Fernandez. That is the 11th, 9th, 13th and 7th ranked players by RKT. Meanwhile clearly superior players like Landa and Beltran are in the teens, and other players currently in RKT top 8 are nowhere to be found. This really makes no sense to me. And, it makes for unfair matches early on. And, I’d like to point out, it goes directly against the claim on the FMR website that they use the RKT rankings for “seeding of nationals.”
The Women’s draw is similarly stacked; it features every LPRT touring professional ranked in the top 30. The big news is the return to the court of Jessica Leona Parrilla, who has been recovering from injury since damaging her knee ligaments last June. She’s back after “only” 8 months recovery, so I’d temper expectations, but she is playing doubles with her regular partner Nancy Enriquez (who she was on the court with competing when she injured herself). The seeding is more or less accurate, with a couple of oddities: why is Herrera, current ranked 3rd in the world, seeded 12th?? And, i’m not sure how Diana Aguilar is seeded 4th. But lets move on.
———————– Here’s a preview of the Men’s Singles Draw:
In the 32s, matches to look for: – Right out of the gate, #1 seed Daniel De La Rosa gets a solid match, going up against accomplished junior Juan Loreto (if Loreto can win the play-in of course). – The best round of 32 match projects to be Eduardo Lalo Portillo vs Jaime Martell Neri. Both players are relatively under-seeded (13th and 20th) based on their accomplishments (world 18U junior reigning champ and current WRT #1). In talent rankings i’ve got these two neck and neck; this should be a really entertaining match. – Another too-early match-up of talented veterans is the 14/19 match-up between Alvaro Beltran and Polo Polito Gutierrez. This was the Mexican National singles FINAL in 2014, and now its a round of 32 match. They’ve met 7 times that I have in the databases, and Beltran has won every time. Polo has essentially retired from pro playing at this point, while Beltran continues to tour and make the back ends of IRT events. I’m going with Beltran here. – Ernesto Ochoa vs Gerardo Franco Gonzalez. Another excellent 1st round match-up between two talented players. I have Franco slightly higher in my personal rankings, but believe Ochoa can win this and advance based on his past results. This will be a dog-fight.
In the 16s, the match-ups get even better: – #8 Sebastian Fernandez vs #9 Alejandro Alex Cardona. Two-time WRT champ Cardona has really slowed down his tourney schedule lately, with just a handful of events in the last two years. Meanwhile Fernandez has rebounded from his 18U World junior finals loss to get some really solid wins on the IRT. I favor Fernandez slightly, though wouldn’t be surprised at all if Cardona went on a run. – #12 Alejandro Alex Landafaces #5 Christian Longoria, in a case where really the two seeds should have been switched. Longoria is a solid young player, but should prove no match for two-time IRT tourney winner Landa. – #4 Javier Mar vs #13 Portillo: Assuming Lalo gets by Martell, the enigmatic Mar awaits. Mar entered the 2018 Mexican Nationals as the defending champ and #1 seed … and was promptly beaten in the round of 32. In more recent events he played Kane Waselenchuk as tough as he’s been played lately, losing at the US Open 12,10 and won the 2019 Longhorn Open. Mar and Portillo have met a couple times in top-level events … but they’re long enough ago that they’re relatively meaningless. Portillo should give Mar a run for his money but should fall here. – #3 Andree Parrilla vs #14 Beltran; another too-early match-up of (arguably) two of the best six players in this draw. Parrilla has been on fire this season in the IRT, projecting to easily finish in the top 8. Beltran meanwhile keeps hanging on and is also holding onto that top 8 ranking. They’ve met 7 times in my database: Beltran holds the advantage 4-3 AND won their most recent meeting … but this seems like a Parrilla win. I sense that Beltran’s much more interested in winning the doubles at this event and may be distracted in singles. – #6 Javier Estrada vs #11 Ochoa; this could be an awesome match: I have these two neck and neck in my personal rankings. Ochoa has wins in the last year over Parrilla, Beltran and Mar, and was beating Montoya in Sonora when Montoya went down with injury. Estrada meanwhile has wins over Landa, Beltran, Cardona, and has played Montoya tough. Both players have the capability to win a stacked event … but only one can advance. Advantage slightly to Estrada here. – #10 Alan Natera Chavez vs #7 Edson Martinez; Natera came out of nowhere as the #32 seed in last year’s event to advance to the semis, beating Mar, Longoria and Franco along the way. Martinez was a semi finalist in this event in both 2014 and 2015, but has not come close to repeating that performance since. I give the edge to Natera here. – #2 Rodrigo Montoya Solis should advance easily over #18 Javier Moreno.
Projecting the Quarters: – #1 DLR over #8 Fernandez: they play similar games … but DLR plays it a lot better right now. – #4 Mar vs #12 Landa: This is a rematch of the 2017 Mexican Men’s final, won by Mar in a tiebreaker 11-7. Its the only time i’ve got these two playing in the database. Since ascending to #1 on the IRT, Landa has struggled; in 5 IRT events this season he’s got two semis, two quarters and one round of 16 loss (to Montoya in a tough seeding match-up). Landa also has a recent history of getting upset early in these events: he lost in the 16s of this event last year to Martell, and in the 16s of the Worlds selection event last June to Estrada. I’m going with Mar here, but it’ll be a marathon. – #3 Parrilla takes out #6 Estrada; I like Estrada’s game, but don’t think he can match-up with the grinding capabilities of Parrilla. – #2 Montoya takes out #10 Natera. Same story; while I like where Natera’s game is, Montoya is one of the sport’s elites right now.
Semis: – DLR over Mar: this would be a rematch of the 2016 Mexican Nationals final, a straight-forward two game win by DLR. Mar may play with more power, but DLR can and will out control the match throughout, and can match Mar shot for shot. For Mar to win this game, he needs to be more perfect than DLR typically is. – Montoya over Parrilla; these two have plenty of experience playing each other; they’re the same age, and battled all throughout juniors. On the adult/pro stage, this is a rematch of last year’s semis (a 2-game Montoya win). Montoya leads h2h over time and has won the last couple times they’ve played, and advances here.
Final: DLR beats Montoya. A rematch of both the 2018 Mexican Nationals final (a Montoya win), the 2018 Mexican Worlds selection event (a DLR win), and more recently, the semis of the 2019 IRT Lewis Drug Pro-Am event (a DLR blow-out win), these two continue to show why they’re the top two seeds. The problem is … no matter who wins this final, both players advance to the international events, so sometimes we see players cruise through the final knowing they’ve guaranteed their national team spots. This could especially be the case here, since both of these players project to make the doubles finals and have the chance to double-represent the country. I think, when the chips are down, DLR is the better player and his on-the-court results generally prove it.
———————– Here’s a preview of the Women’s Singles Draw and matches to look for.
In the 16s, we have tough matches right out of the gate: – In the 8/9: two young players face off in Ana Laura Flores and Erin Rivera. Flores still has a year in 18U (I believe), while Rivera made the finals of Mexican 18U in 2018 in her last year of competition. When Rivera couldn’t travel to 2018 junior worlds, Flores took her place and made it to the semis. But I don’t have them ever having played in my records. I’ll go with Flores, based on her recent LPRT wins. – #5 Parrilla vs #12 Alexandria Herrera: poor seeding makes a semis-quality match-up happen here, even more unfortunate for Parrilla in her first event back. Herrera has gotten the better of Parrilla on the pro tour the last couple times they’ve played and I’ll favor her in this match as well. – #4 Diana Aguilar vs #13 Montserrat Perez: perhaps a reader can help here: how exactly is Aguilar seeded 4th here? I don’t have her entered into a Mexican National singles event since 2014. Is this a typo and should be Delia Aguilar? I’m not sure who wins this match: both players are young and seem to be in the same age group; they’ve met for the finals of multiple Mexican junior championships, always won by Aguilar, so I’ll give her the nod here.
In the quarters: – #1 Paola Longoria faces the lefty Flores and should advance easily. – #12 Herrera should overpower the youngster Aguilar. – #3 Nancy Enriquez faces #6 Montse Mejia in an interesting battle of youth and experience. Mejia, the reigning 18u Mexican and junior world champ, has not played since her Nov 2018 worlds triumph. Meanwhile, Enriquez has been busy making the back ends of LPRT events. Mejia has shown she can take games off of the world’s best; can she string together a complete match against a tough player? I’ll give Enriquez the edge in a tiebreaker. – #2 Samantha Salas Solis faces off against long time adversary Susana Susy Acosta. This is a rematch of the semis of the 2016 Nationals, a Salas win then, and another in this event.
Projected Semis: – Longoria over Herrera: this is a rematch of last year’s semis too. They’ve met 11 times in all formats, all 11 Paola wins. – Salas over Enriquez: this would also be a rematch of last year’s semis. Enriquez does have some wins over Salas in their career (she topped Samantha for the 2005 Junior world title for example), but Salas has dominated otherwise.
Finals: Longoria over Salas. They’ve met 58 times across pro tours, Mexican national events that I have records for, and international events. Longoria is 55-3 in that time. These two have also met in 5 of the 6 LPRT pro events so far this season … all Paola wins as well. Its possible Salas pulls the upset, but not likely. Look for Paola to take her 6th Mexican national singles title (that we have records for … she likely has many more but we have no records for anything prior to 2014. If you’re reading this FMR; i’d love to get access to your past records and enter them into the PRS database!)
———————– They’re also playing doubles in Chihuahua with all the best teams playing together. Here’s how I think they’ll end up.
Men’s Doubles: 15 teams battling it out, but its hard not to go with 1 vs 2 again, in a rematch of last year’s Nationals final. The DLR/Beltran team is the best in the world and have proven it time and again (at the US Open, at Worlds, etc). The #2 seed Mar/Montoya is no slouch though, and they’ll both have their hands full with excellent #3 and #4 teams in Parrilla/Martinez and Landa/Cardona respectively.
Javier Moreno, who holds the Men’s record for most international doubles titles, is not entered, so he does not have an opportunity to extend that record 🙂
Women’s Doubles: the dominant team of Longoria/Salas was upset in the final of the 2018 worlds selection event and hence are the #2 seeds here. I wouldn’t count on another upset. I think Longoria/Salas take this draw, beating all comers. The interesting part may be their finals opponents: Parrilla/Enriquez were beating the #1 seeded Herrera/Mejia team in last year’s selection event before defaulting due to Parrilla’s injury; if Parrilla can compete, this may result in a new finals pair.
(Notable; there was not a 2018 National doubles final in the database for Mexico … the event was cancelled/not held during last year’s nationals).
——————- Phew, that’s it for the preview. Can’t wait to see how it unfolds.
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.