– Both tours for all the efforts you make with streaming matches so that we nerds can watch from home. Jerry J Josey Jr.osey Jr. and Pablo Fajre n particular.
– Speaking of broadcasts, special thanks to the lead broadcasters on the pro tours Timothy Baghurst and Dean DeAngelo Baer. Also thanks to those who help out on broadcasts JP Edwards, Favio Saravia and many others who help out and make the streaming entertaining for those of us at home.
– thanks to Ryan and Tish Rodgers for R2 Sports App; where would we be without that system and its prevalent use to provide real-time tracking of tournaments. IRF: take note! can we please move to r2sports and move away from PDFs stored in dropbox?
– Thanks to Kramer X for everything you do with The Racquetball Blog, the only person out there really writing about the sport in a blog-format.
– Thanks to all the skilled photographers out there associated with the various organizations; keep up your great work. I’m talking Ken Fife, Kevin Savory, Mike Augustin, Freddy Ramirez, Roby Partovich, Geoff Thomsen, Mike Boatman, and others who I may have forgotten.
The big story ahead of this event was LPRT #1 Paola Longoria going for her 100th professional win. She had family and media on site for the event, but lost in the final. I’m sure she’s under a bit of pressure to hit a milestone win that’s been pushed in social media for months … and now she’ll have another opportunity to do so at the sport’s biggest event, the US Open.
As some of you may have noticed from the broadcasts, yours truly was at this event Friday night to see the 32s and 16s, and I got to help with the broadcast for the quarter final matches on the show court. It is the first time in a while I’ve seen the Ladies pros up close, and I had a blast working along side Timothy Baghurst, LPRT Commissioner Tj Baumbaugh and LPRT gadget king Jerry J Josey Jr., who work tirelessly to put on these events. My first time on the mike was a lot of fun and I hope you all enjoyed listening to the commentary as much as I had calling the matches.
—— Lets recap the event, and I’ll provide some additional commentary for the matches I saw up close.
There were three round of 32 matches, all involving traveling pros and local VA players, including tournament director and Hall of Famer Malia Kamahoahoa Bailey (who fell in two to Jessica Parrilla).
Notable Round of 16 matches: – #9 Brenda Laime Jalil got a solid win over #8 Adriana Riveros 3,14. – #4 Rhonda Rajsich was somewhat fortunate to get by #13 Carla Muñoz Montesinos in their round of 16 match, advancing by the scores of (14),14,4. This was a back and forth match for the entirety of the first two games, with the ladies trading points back and forth, trading leads, etc. Both veteran players played solid tactical games. Munoz had the advantage in game two, leading 14-12 when an odd sequence of events occurred; the referee asked for a replay of a point well after it was completed due to a belated ruling on the serve; this seemed to slightly unnerve Munoz, who lost the 2nd game and wasn’t competitive in the tie-breaker. Credit to Rajsich though; she sensed something was amiss, got the call she needed and kept her composure to win out. – #3 Maria Jose Vargas Parada advanced over reigning US National champ #14 Kelani Lawrence in two tight games 13,10. Lawrence was playing on the courts she grew up on and had the home town crowd rooting her on against one of the world’s best. I must also note; it’s not too often we see two generations competing in the same event like we did here with Mom Malia and daughter Kelani. That was cool to see. – #6 Nancy Enriquez outlasted #11 Sheryl Lotts (12),8,0. Lotts really played a solid game to take the first, but Enriquez settled in, took over game two with her power, and then went on a run that Lotts couldn’t stop in the tie-breaker to secure the 11-0 tiebreaker win. Enriquez has sneaky power; you don’t realize it until you’re up close how much pace she hits with. – #2 Samantha Salas Solis topped former top-4 touring pro Jessica Parrilla7,8. Salas struggled even to get to this event on time, pushing through the same local storms in the Monterrey region of Mexico that prevented 4th ranked Alexandra Herrera from traveling. She arrived in time though to face off against a tough opponent in Parrilla, and a slug-fest ensued. Both players really put some velocity onto the ball, but i’m not sure i’ve ever seen a harder hitter than Salas. Towards the end of game two, Parrilla started working Salas’ backhand more on the serve, had some success, but it was too little, too late as Salas moved on.
In the Quarters, thanks to Alexandra Herrera‘s absence we had some unexpected match-ups … in fact three of the four quarter final matches featured players who had never played each other professionally. It made for some unexpected results.
– #1 Longoria cruised past #9 Laime 1,4. Laime was outclassed by the veteran, but credit to her for getting this far (a career best showing). – #4 Rajsich squeaked past #5 Natalia Mendez in the first game, then cruised to a two game win 14,1. This is only the 2nd time these two have met in a pro setting. – #3 Vargas dominated #6 Enriquez 6,3 to move into the semis. – But the surprise of the round, perhaps the surprise of the last two seasons, was #7 Masiel Rivera Oporto beating #2 Salas 12,14. Rivera hung with the hard-hitting Salas, worked her backhand well, and got a career win to advance to her first semi final. Salas played 9 pro events last season and made the final of all nine, but now has been upset in both events so far this season.
In the Semis: – #1 Longoria raced past #4 Rajsich 5,3 to move into the finals, continuing her dominant tourney. – #3 Vargas mashed her way past Rivera 11,9 to move into her second final of the season.
In the final, Longoria took game one in her quest for 100 … but Vargas had other ideas, winning game two and the tiebeaker to spoil Longoria’s record-setting win attempt. Vargas gets her first ever professional win over Longoria and gets an early lead in the points rankings in her quest to take over the #2 spot from Salas, or perhaps to challenge for the year end title.
Before we get into the new IRT season (and the draws for Atlanta are already up, preview coming tomorrow), I wanted to wrap-up last season with the notification that we have some annual files that we update at the end of each season. I meant to post this more towards the end of the IRT season in June, but its been such a busy summer that I never got to it. So now with the first 2019-20 event days away, here’s a quick recap of where we are.
———————— We’ve already seen a ton of news items too since the end of last season: – new website www.irttour.com – Hiring of Aimee Roehler Ruiz to do Social Media – Naming of Pablo Fajre to direct both streaming and satellite events – The official return of Andy Kulback to tour management
And the schedule is looking fantastic. Last season there were 9 events. Already the IRT schedule has 11 planned Tier 1 or Grand Slam events with a 12th likely coming soon for sure, and they havn’t event started really working on the spring schedule yet. So things are looking really promising for the new season already.
Can’t wait for the first Tier 1 this coming weekend!
This past week, the LPRT became the last of the major racquetball organizations to convert to standard/amateur/international scoring standards, abandoning the 3 out of 5 games to 11 structure that had been in place for years.
This is the first time a change in the scoring system for the ladies pros has occurred since 2002. But prior to that, the ladies pro tour changed scoring constantly, and its an interesting history. I’ve kept track of the scoring system changes over the years here: http://www.proracquetballstats.com/…/lprt_scoring_changes.h… . Here’s a brief review:
– 1974: In the beginning, the NRC’s standard scoring system was best 2/3 games to 21, tiebreaker also win by 1. – 1975: some qualifying rounds were one game to 31. See Aurora 76 as an example. – 1976 est: 3rd game not to 21 but to 11. Believe this happened in 1976 along with Men’s side, fixing the tiebreaker to not be such a grind. – 1980: Scored in two sets of best of five games to 11, tiebreaker best of three; with rally scoring. Example score: 3-1, 2-3, 2-1. This scoring method has wreaked havoc on the PRS results code, coincidentally. – 1981: The third set is replaced with a single game. Still rally scoring. Example Score: 2-3, 3-2, 15-11. – 1983: Best of five, to 21; rally-scoring. Example score: 13, 17, (14), 18. – 1986: Best of five, to 11, win by one. More or less Consistent with the Men’s scoring by this point. – 1995 est: Same best of five to 11, but win by two instead of win by one. The Men’s tour had a similar change at some point in his time-frame as well. – Aug 2000: Back to Rally scoring and games to 21, win by 2. “Ping Pong” style serving where each player would serve five times in a row. It was said at the time this change was done to try to counter-act the dominance of Michelle Gould on tour. – Aug 2001: Scoring change again: best of five games format, with games played to 15, and scoring on every rally. But no more ping pong – Sept 2002: Abandoned rally scoring for 2002-03 season, back to “normal” best of five to 11, win by two conventional pro scoring. – Aug 2019: conversion to amateur/international scoring.
I may be missing some smaller variations in the scoring, but these are the major changes over the years.
We’ve updated the code in a similar fashion to what we did in Jan 2019 when the International Racquetball Tour made this same change, but we’ll have to wait until we get some data entry to ensure that the code correctly interprets the new scoring method.
My two cents on the change? Well, i’m bummed there’s no more crazy 5 game scores from a code perspective; I love watching 15-13 matches or the thrill of a 12-10 5th game super tiebreaker. But I’ve also come around on Doug Ganim‘s theories on the scoring system with respect to tiebreakers in later rounds. There’s many more of them now than there were longer matches in the old score format.
Last season on the IRT, which was the first entirely in the new scoring method, 21% of matches went to the tie-breaker (see http://rball.pro/8BD641) and 25% of matches from the Quarters on went to a tie-breaker. These stats are skewed of course by having one particular dominant player basically win every match in 2 irrespective of the round.
By way of comparison, In the last season where the IRT had 3 out of 5 games to 11 … 14% of matches from the Quarters on went to the tiebreaker 5th game. So the new scoring method is giving us more 3rd game tiebreakers than we had 5th game breakers in the previous system at the business end of tournaments.
I also feel (without much in the way of hard proof necessarily) that the 3-game format enables some players to get wins where they would have run out of gas in the 5-game format. Anecdotally we see more upsets of top players in the best-of-3 format versus best-of-5; Paola Longoria has taken losses in best-of-3 national and amateur competitions as of late, but has just two best-of-5 game losses in the last three pro seasons entirely. It is easier for a skilled but less-than-fit player to pull off a win in best-of-3 versus outlasting a fitter player in a 2 hour best-of-5 marathon.
Congrats to the 2019 Pan Am Games Team winners: – Men: Bolivia over Colombia in the final. Mexico and USA semis – Women: Mexico over Argentina in the final. Bolivia and USA in the semis.
Per-country notes: – This is Bolivia’s 2nd major Men’s title, after taking the Men’s title earlier this year at the 2019 PARC. – This is Colombia’s highest ever finish in an IRF team event, men or Women. – This is Mexico’s 17th Women’s team title. – This is the third time Argentina has finished as runner-up in the Women’s team division.
(Note: i’ve just put all the quarter finalists as finishing in “5th” place for now; if they are eventually ranked to determin a 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th place I’ll update the data).
And, since I never announced the fact that I did historical IRF Team results loading earlier this year. .. here’s the announcement and some context.
A few months back, Racquetball Canada reached out to PRS and IRF Media Relations guru Timothy Baghurst asking if we had Team standings from the historical International Racquetball Federation events. PRS had never pursued such data, but thought it was such a great idea that we’ve spent the past months digging up and compiling team results going back in time to the very first IRF events in the early 1980s, and the writing reports to query and display the data we found. Much was online, but much required digging into the magazine archives.
Today, i’m happy to announce the first release of this data research and inclusion to the database officially, and to note that we’ve loaded up the latest IRF events from this year, namely the 2019 Pan American Racquetball Championships and the 2019 Pan American Games events into the database.
The team queries are available in the the IRF Match database off of www.proracquetballstats.com. I put a couple of the team query examples in the Pan American wrap-up as a teaser, but here’s the official announcement with some more detail.
I’ve created several Team-based queries for your consumption:
– Per event: you can now select “Team Results” per international event to get a full list of the team standings for Men, Women and Combined Example report for the most recent 2018 Worlds: http://rball.pro/3E3571
– On the main pages for IRF Match, there’s a new section where you can select a “Team Category” and get all the historical Team winners sliced and diced any which way; All Men’s World championship winners, all Women’s Pan Am winners, all combined results across all tourneys, etc. Here’s an example of all Women Team Worlds winners from the first World’s championship in 1981 to the present: http://rball.pro/585BA0
– I’ve created some Matrix queries as well; showing all Team finishers per Event type (Worlds, PARC, etc). This is a quick way to see how countries have fared over the years. Here’s an example: this is the all-time Worlds Matrix for Men’s Teams: http://rball.pro/BD934A
– I’ve created some Country-specific queries: you can get a list of every result in the database per country. Here’s a list of all of Argentina’s team results throughout time: http://rball.pro/AE770C
– I’ve created a “Best ever finish” query too per country, since the IRF team competitions have basically been dominated by the three primary rball-playing countries. Here’s the Best ever finish in Men’s, Women’s and Combined for Bolivia: http://rball.pro/702BD2
– I’ve created counting queries: most Men’s team wins, Most Women’s and most combined. This has been divided into the various int’l categories too. For example, here’s a list of who has the most Team Combined titles at the Pan American Racquetball Championships over the past 30 years: http://rball.pro/F7D761
As with most racquetball historical data … the early records are sometimes sparse. The magazines of the early 1980s barely covered the first IRF events, to the point where we literally don’t know who won at the first ever Pan American championships event (in 1986). I’ve had to recreate a number of Team results from scratch by literally counting up points from the event. Others i’ve kind of made assumptions of who the team winners were by looking at the four singles results (usually this was early on when the USA was winning all four competitions anyway). We’ve also had some ties in the past, which makes some of the results look odd until I figure out an elegant way to show ties in the matrixes.
I hope I havn’t made any mistakes while doing this data collection; if so please don’t hesitate to email me if you feel there’s errors.
Next steps: Regional competitions (South American Games, Bolivarian Games, etc). We will also enter the Junior team data and include the same reports for adults into the Juniors area. We also hope to get better results from country federations for older events. We’ve had some luck getting data out of the magazines of the eras, but more research there is probably needed too.
The LPRT has released its schedule for next year and it looks great. Lots of new events, fully 5 Grand Slams, and 16 total Tier 1s/Grand Slams. That’s 6 more events than last year, great news for the sport.
In the wake of the Mexican Junior Nationals event a few weeks ago, I took some time to do some data loading so that the “matrix” reports I have showing all winners for all age divisions for all of time looked a bit better.
This is a quick notification post to rball fans to inform you of some data loading for Mexican Junior data, if you were interested.
You can also pull down the full match results for any year from the Event list in the Juniors database. I generally only put in the “older” age groups of full results (14s sometimes, 16s and 18s) and just note the final for the younger groups. Furthermore, there’s no Double Elimination results in the database; most of these events are DE.
Mexican Junior events have been a bit tough to keep track of; in any given year the US and Canada have “one” Junior National event. Mexico meanwhile has a Junior Olympics event (which sometimes takes “liberties” with the age groups, or skips them altogether), a conventional Junior Nationals, and even “World Selection events” that supersede the results of nationals. So as it turned out … some of the results I had previously for “Mexican Junior Nationals” were actually from the Junior Olympics events. I’ve now cleaned all that up.
We have online data for Mexican Jr Nationals for at least all winners from 2012-present now, thanks to some archive.org work. The earliest years generally only have winners posted, even for the older divisions. Hopefully, I havn’t made any mistakes; if anyone sees data entry errors please let me know.
Thanks to Ryan Rodgers who hooked me up with 2013 data so I could finish the data entry.
From here … in order to fully populate the Mexican Junior data, I need help from the Association. @Federación Federación Mexicana de Raquetbol if you’re reading this, do you have past records or past draw sheets I can leverage to do data entry? Do you have a list of at least the winners of past Junior championships?
Next up, i’ll do some similar work for Canadian juniors.
Pro Racquetball Stats fans may not know it, but at the bottom of the Report selection page for each tour I have some static pages of information that I maintain. One of those is kind of a running diary of the season of “events” as they occur.
Here’s a list of notable “events” from this past season, which has seen some significant change in the structure of the tour. This is a subset of what’s on the above link, with text abbreviated for brevity.
– August 2018: the IRT season opens with questions as to whether Kane Waselenchuk is actually “retired” after events stemming from the last event in Florida in April and comments made on social media and in interviews over the summer.
– Oct 2018: Kane enters and wins the US Open, his 14th title. Kane is now simultaneously the oldest and youngest ever winner of the US Open.
– Nov 2018: Commissioner Andy Kulback takes a “leave of absence” from the IRT, and IRT CEO John Scott announces new managerial structure for the tour, which installs Mike Grisz as the Chairman of the board.
– Nov 2018: thanks to Kane’s Jan 2018 injury, he drops in the 12-month rolling rankings to #6 while Alex Landaascends to #1. This leads to a series of discussions and criticisms of the tour ranking system in racquetball forums, with calls for protected seeding or changes to the ranking system.
– Feb 2019: Scott resigns as CEO of the tour after experiencing some medical and personal issues. Current Chairman of the Board Mike Grisz takes over as interim CEO.
– Mar 2019: IRT announces a partnership with Pablo Fajre to broadcast events, a departure from the existing IRT Network infrastructure and presumably an end to the competing WRT tour.
– Mar 2019: the first ever IRT event occurs in Bolivia, the Open Iris Bolivia Grand Slam. #1 Waselenchuk, along with 4 other top 10 players do not make the trip. Bolivian #1 Luis Conrrado Moscoso Serrudo wins the event, defeating IRT #2 Rocky Carson in the final.
– April 2019: Former CEO Scott divests himself fully from the IRT by selling his ownership shares to Maryland-based racquetball enthusiast Slemo Warigonand his wife Charity. This ends Scott’s not-quite two year ownership of the tour, and a much longer involvement in the sport. Coinciding with this move, Grisz takes over officially as both CEO and Chairman of the IRT Board. The IRT is now a fully volunteer-driven organization.
– April 2019: Former Commissioner Kulbeck returns to the tour with some limited/as-of-yet to be determined involvement going forward.
– April 2019: Waselenchuk loses a quarter-final match in Sarasota to Alvaro Beltran breaking an 83-match winning streak on tour and becoming the first on-the-court, non injury related match loss since Sept 2013.
– May 2019: Kane wins the final Tier 1 of the season in Syosset to secure his 13th pro title.
– May 2019: US Open director Doug Ganim announces that he’s retiring after its 25th iteration in 2020, leaving some time to coordinate a replacement plan but also throwing the biggest racquetball event’s future into doubt.
– June 2019: After several non-Tier 1s wrap up, the final 2018-19 season finishes. The final event is won in surprising fashion by Javier Estrada, who takes out a slew of top IRT pros to win the title.
Next Up: Pan Am Games. I’ll wait until the knockout draws are produced to do “previews.”
I just wanted to let you know that, due to the demand for the previously hard-to-find report called “Tale of the Tape,” I’ve put a direct link at the very bottom of the main Report Selection page for you to call it yourselves from now on.
From the www.proracquetballstats.com home page, select your tour (IRT, LPRT or WRT), then at the very bottom of the list of available reports (but before all the static HTML links) there’s a direct link to the Tale of the Tape. It calls another front end where you can select any two players to generate a Tale of the Tape report.
In case you’ve never seen it, its modeled after Boxing preview graphics (hence the name) and has a picture of each player, all the available demographic information I have on them (age, home town, social media links, sponsors, etc), plus Career Won Loss records, # of tourney titles and year end titles, and at the bottom a full detailed match history between them on the tour in question.
If I’ve got incorrect data or am missing a picture for a player, please let me know and I’ll update data.
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.