By Nicholas J. Walz, USOpen.org
FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. -- For a group of applicants applying for a position defined by stoicism and the ability to remain invisible, the 2013 US Open Ballperson Tryouts on a gorgeous Thursday afternoon brought out some eye-catching candidates to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
"Being a ballperson, becoming an active part of the experience of the US Open, there are few things that compare," said Tina Taps, Manager of Tennis Programs at the NTC and US Open Director of Ballpersons. "It really is one of the coolest summer jobs anyone could ever have. Some great representatives from right here in Queens and the surrounding communities, a melting pot of culture, and then further out into the country and even internationally are all part of this team. I’m confident that we’ve found a fair number of keepers today and I can't wait to welcome them to our ranks."
A line of nearly 500 candidates weaved around the Chase Center by the NTC’s East Gate, filling out applications and claiming crisp, white Ralph Lauren t-shirts as they headed south past Arthur Ashe Stadium towards the field courts where the tryouts were held. where the tryouts were held. Of the group, 150 will receive a second audition in July, with roughly half of that final callback group qualifying to work the 2013 US Open.
"You guys are lucky to come out on a day like this – perfect conditions," said Taps, addressing the candidates.. "Hopefully this works to your advantage and we see some great tryouts. Just know that at the Open, it’s going to be much hotter and stickier."
Once Taps’ pep talk finished, the hopefuls took to the courts that will be inhabited by the best players in the world two months from now and got to work showing their stuff. The pool of candidates was comprised mostly of teens and young adults – 14 is the minimum age to try out – with even the most physically- conditioned candidates having their struggles—but everyone also having fun.
"Even trying out, you don’t get how fast you need to be until that ball hits the net," said 17-year-old high school swimmer and soccer player Brian Stone of Park Ridge, N.J., after completing his first-ever tryout. "I really liked it. There are a lot of little things that go into it that you never notice on television. You always need to use two hands, run straight ahead – no backpedaling.
"To do this, I think you have to be a great athlete."
Hayley Parker celebrated the completion of her sophomore year of high school by trying out for one of the back wall positions, where a strong and accurate throwing arm is a must. Born in Ontario and now living in Warminster, Pa., the 15-year-old varsity tennis player will put off a summer visiting her grandparents in her native Canada if her tryout nets a US Open gig.
After some initial nervousness, she felt her tryout went smooth.
"I actually didn’t want to throw it too hard because I was worried that it would maybe bounce over the fence," said Parker. "It’s something I practiced back home, knowing that it could be me only a few feet from Serena [Williams]. I’d be so embarrassed if I messed up."