and old share a dream: To fetch tennis balls at U.S. Open
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[June 20, 2014]
By Ellen Wulfhorst
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hundreds of people,
young and not so young, lined up under rainy skies on Thursday to try
out to be U.S. Open ballpersons, a short-term, low paying summer job
that can be a dream come true for tennis fans.
A few dozen will be chosen from the competitive tryouts at the
USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to join veteran
ballpersons from previous years, and spend three weeks in August and
September working at the tennis championship.
Those who are hired find out in early July.
For some, the job is a chance to get behind the scenes at the Open,
rub shoulders with pro players or list the job experience on a
Some teens trying out admitted that their parents want them to make
money over the summer vacation. And a couple giggled that they
wanted the free T-shirt from Ralph Lauren, which sponsors the
None of those reasons mattered to Arthur Leinbach, a retired
Pennsylvania state trooper whose gray-streaked hair set him apart
from the mostly teenage crowd.
"I'm 50 and it's on my bucket list," said Leinbach, who made the
trip to the tennis center in New York City's Queens borough from his
home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
"Just because you're old doesn't mean you can't stay active and
compete with someone half your age - or less than half your age."
Ballpersons must be at least 14 years old. The pay starts at minimum
They need to be quick, with a strong arm to throw a ball the length
of a tennis court, said Tina Taps, manager of the ballpersons
program for the United States Tennis Association.
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"We're really looking for athletes who can adapt quickly," she said.
Confidence helps, too. Some 33,000 people can fill the stands at
each session of the tennis championship, and millions watch on
"It would be so cool to be on the tennis court with famous tennis
players," said Stephanie Seoane, 16, of Queens, adding that to be
near her favorite player, Rafael Nadal, "would be like a dream come
Also trying out was 44-year-old Laura Ortiz, a U.S. Army veteran
wearing a prosthetic leg. She was injured in a hit-and-run car
accident in 2008.
"Who doesn't want to do this?" she said.
Altogether, about 275 ballpersons work day and night sessions at the
Open, which starts Aug. 25, organizers said.
(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Jan Paschal)
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