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Passing round one of ball person trials

It’s simple. Run, pick-up ball, catch, throw. At least it seemed simple.
These are the only requirements to be a ballperson at the U.S. Open. Though I never played tennis – I’m not even sure if I’ve ever picked up a racket – I assumed my experience running, catching and throwing more than qualified me to at least try out. If Cosmo Kramer could do it, why not me?
Despite growing up only 15 minutes away from Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, I never went out for a ballperson position. My sister tried once, and she didn’t get a call back – this was my chance to redeem the family name, to demonstrate what the U.S.T.A missed all those years ago.
The gloomy weather on Thursday, June 23 forced the tryouts indoors, which our instructors told us was a big advantage – the indoor courts were 20 feet shorter.
I took copious mental notes as the instructors doled out tips to the assembled media and gave instruction to the aspiring ball persons as they tried out. Be quick, check. Make sure your throws reach their target on one bounce, check. Use two hands when retrieving the ball, check.
I was ready – and nervous. Though this tryout was for media members and a position was not actually on the line, my pride was.
Given the choice to try-out along the net or the back position, I played the odds and chose both. I took my place along the net, arms behind my back, legs ready to sprint, mind clouded with the mental notes I just took.
I ran – too loudly I was told, tennis prizes silence and I also false started when a ball headed for the net sailed over, a big no-no – I picked up – though I fumbled one, I caught and I threw – albeit occasionally on two bounces.
It was over. Five minutes felt like a lifetime, but I was ready to go again.
My instructor liked my quickness along the net – I guess my stomping feet weren’t too much of a hindrance – and said I did a good enough job along the backline. I would get a call back for not one, but both positions. I passed, though running after a ball and picking it up also probably qualifies a dog for the position. I was tired and out of breath, but ecstatic, nonetheless.
Then I discovered the oldest ballperson last year was 61 – 35 years my senior. Next, I over-heard instructors praising the next ballperson, saying he too would get a callback for both positions. My euphoria was waning slightly.
Was it possible the media was just being strung along with imaginary callbacks in search of good PR? It’s conceivable, but no one can ever take away my imaginary passing grade for the first of three rounds of try-outs to be a ballperson at the U.S. Open.

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