By Joseph Staszewski
When he tried out to be a US Open ballperson, Michael Nacinovich not only immediately earned the job—he also got a specific position.
The Flushing native played junior varsity baseball and basketball at St. Francis Prep last year as a sophomore and hopes to make the varsity this season. His strong arm from playing shortstop and second base also landed him a summer job at this year’s Open.
Nacinovich even put that arm on display a little too much for the ballperson evaluators at tryouts while in the back positions along the walls of the court.
“The first day I threw it really hard, far across the court and on the line,” he said. “It is supposed to be one bounce. I didn’t even reach the floor.”
He was immediately told “nice throw, but you need to bounce it.” Nacinovich was later given a heads-up to expect an e-mail asking him to join the ballperson team for the Open. Once he got the job and settled down to work, he spent his time at the back of the court instead of being a ball chaser at the net—and he was just fine with that.
“Because of my arm they just stuck me in the back,” Nacinovich said. “I’m not that fast. I’m pretty fast. I’m not in the top. I’m in the middle.”
He went to the tryout because of friend and fellow St. Francis Prep student Micaela Prisco of Whitestone, who had already worked the Open as a ballperson. She told him it was an amazing experience, a chance to be around some of the best athletes in the world and a good way to pick up some summer cash.
The experience lived up to expectations for Nacinovich. He had the opportunity to work matches for top American men like John Isner and Donald Young. Nacinovich was also on court with Lleyton Hewitt in a doubles match and sixth-seeded women Lucie Safaravo. Nacinovich has already recommended being a ballperson to friends.
“I’ll just remember ball boying for the best players in the world,” Nacinovich said
The Isner match stood out because it was his first appearance on TV, but it was the mixed doubles match with Young and partner Taylor Townsend that he won’t forget. It was the only time he got to work with Prisco, the person who helped put him there. A ball got stuck behind a cameraman and after a joking comment from a judge as he retrieved it the two shared a laugh.
“It was pretty funny,” he said.
Nacinovich took his job seriously, but despite his best efforts, he still had a tendency to make the mistake that started it all. A few throws still got away and sailed to the other ballperson across the court without the customary bounce. It proved that he was there for good reason.