The winner of the 2017 Las Vegas Championships is………Paddleball!!

Incredible comebacks, unbelievable gets, upsets, almost upsets, and too close for comfort victories. The 2017 Las Vegas Paddleball Tournament had it all and much more. There were four wall racquetball players, three wall paddleball players, and handball players all competing in this years one wall paddleball tournament. All stepping out of their comfort zone to play in arguably the most competitive and exciting event in this years Championships. The participants read like a who’s who of all the 3WallBall Championships. Chris McDonald, Emmett Coe, Veronica Figueroa, Allan Sanchez, Richie Vera, David Blatt, Will Rolon, Freddy Ramirez and of course Robert Sostre. Most winning or placing in their respective events.

The B Division included the Men’s Pro Division Three Wall Handball Champion and One Wall runner-up, the Men’s B Division Doubles Handball Champion, the Racquetball A Division Champion, and two legendary ladies handball champions, and two old school small ball players. In the end it was Allan Sanchez and Armando Duchesne powering by Ray Cruz and Warren Weiner 25-16.

The Women’s Pro Doubles Division was dominated by the veteran team of Kathy Guinan and Susan Stephen as they defeated two extremely talented ladies, Jasmine Suarez and Cynthia Watson 25-16. The championship game was filled with smart play and terrific volleys as the fans were treated to high end paddleball. New comers to paddleball scene via handball, The legend Veronica Figueroa, Jessica Santiago, Bernice Torres, Brenda Pares-Dubose, and Melissa Sky all held their own and will certainly be contenders in future tournaments. We welcome all of you and look forward to your growth in paddleball.

The Mixed Doubles Division was filled with comebacks and unpredictability as Kathy Guinan and “The Comeback Kid” Frank Savino looked all but out of it before rallying for an over the top 25-24 victory over David “The Hulkster” Blatt and Melissa Sky. It wasn’t an easy road for either finalist as their respective opponents are champions in their own right. Jasmine Suarez and Paul Angel battled furiously till the end before Blatt and Sky sealed the deal. On the other side Will’ The Warrior” Rolon and Susan Stephen tried to mount a comeback, but fell just a bit short as the consistency of Savino and Guinan proved too much to overcome. Congratulations to new comer Melissa Sky as she continues her climb to the top of the Ladies division.

The Men’s Pro Doubles Division was insane from the first round as Brian Romero steps off a plane to team with Chris McDonald and serves nine service winners to take out Richie Gonzales and Andy Price. Later in the round first time partners Matt Mantro and Jose Serrano go on to sweep Bay 8th veterans Kevin Cullen and Stephen Tagliaferri in a minor upset, and in the process delivering the only shutout of the tournament. The next round sees Kenny Armwood and Ray Sanchez take Robert Sostre and Freddy Ramirez to the brink of elimination as Sostre and Ramirez barely survive 21-18. Meanwhile Coe and Melendez sail by Romero and McDonald 21-14. Finally favorites David Blatt and Paul Angel are also taken to the brink of elimination as they barely slip by Sammy Kawaam and Ben Goldenberg 21-19. This sets up one of the greatest comebacks in tournament history as Frank Savino and William Rolon are trailing 18-4 to David Blatt and Paul Angel and somehow rally to go on to win one of the most epic games in the last decade 21-20. Meanwhile Sostre and Ramirez breeze by Coe and Melendez 21-14 as Sostre and Ramirez prove too much for the new comer to handle. This sets up a tremendous final on the “Show Court.” Dives, rallies, spikes, and rollers rule the finale, but in the end it’s Sostre building the lead and Ramirez closing the show as they capture the Championship 25-17.

I would like to take a few moments to thank some people who have helped make this event a successful one. I’d like to thank Mike Coulter and Aaron Embry for all their patience in helping me prepare for the event and supporting paddleball in a very big way. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes especially as the event draws near, I want you both to know how much you are appreciated. I’d like to thank Vic Leibovsky for not only sponsoring paddleball but always making yourself available to me no matter what ridiculous question I had. Your patience and knowledge is also very much appreciated along with your incredible wife Patty who has the heart of an angel.Thank you both. I want to thank John Cherry for being my eyes and ears in NY. I want to thank Ray Sanchez for the artwork, and for being the nicest crazy guy ever.I want to thank Jimmy Kandylas, for not only sponsoring this event, but for all that you do at every event. You are a class act and paddleball extends it hand of thanks to you. I want to thank Antonio Navarro for doing what you do, which is bring our sport into homes that might not get to see it live. Thank you Tony. I also want to thank Timothy Gonzales for always supporting me. I appreciate you and our friendship.  I want to thank Liz Colon for her support, and for our hilarious paddleball conversations. You always make me laugh and have kind words. Thank you. I want to thank Kari and AF for the absolutely beautiful shirts. I also want to thank AF for the uplifting phone calls in Vegas. Your support means a lot. Thank you. I want to thank every player who participated in the tournament. You never refused to referee a line. You displayed incredible sportsmanship throughout. You gave all of yourselves every game. You cheered for others, and showed class till the end. You represented paddleball in the best way in front of hundreds who have never seen the game. You promoted our sport like it hasn’t been promoted in a long time. Thank you. I heard and appreciate all of your kind words. Thank you Anita, Kathy, Susan, Sammy, my old friend Ray Cruz, and everybody else who gave me words of encouragement. You are all awesome.

Finally, Richie Vera, thank you for all that you do for sports and the community. You give, and ask nothing in return except for the growth of our sport. Your participation in an event means that it will be run fairly and with integrity. Your presence commands respect because you have earned it. I thank you for your never ending support and generosity. Your family is truly incredible. I’m glad to call you my friend. Thank you

See you soon!

Mike D

 

 

 

High Heat 2017…..Overheated

I waited. I waited to write something about this tournament because I’ve learned over the years to step back and let things settle down. I have found that I get a better perspective of the big picture this way. I, like so many, say things in anger and frustration that I wish I hadn’t said, or wish I could take back. I’m older now, and I try not to make those mistakes anymore. I still do, but hopefully not as often. So…I waited.

I read all the comments, mostly negative on Facebook. I felt the anger of some, and the disappointment of others. I felt the frustration of those who put so much time and effort recently in trying to prevent this exact scenario from occurring. I felt sad when those who were documenting the tournament by going “Live” on Facebook turned off their cameras because the controversial play seemed like it took forever and wasn’t going to be resolved. The lowest point for me was when one of our biggest supporters in everything that we do as a community had to actually delete the video of the game because of the tremendous negativity, vulgarity, and profanity of the comments that came with the post. Not all were like this, but too many. I read all the speculation on why the tournament was not completed, and why the winnings were split. I read the opinions of people who were not there, but gave their opinion as if they were. I read and appreciate all the posts that offered solutions instead of finding fault. I read and also appreciate those who believe that this game could never be more than an inner city game because of these incidents, and it is broken beyond repair. I know these same people love the game , and have more passion for it than most of us. For all of you, I offer a different view.

How about all of the people, men and women, who came to support the players and the game. I overheard a player saying, “Hopefully with everybody here I’ll be able to get a couple of games in on the side.” That’s music to my ears. How about the people so dedicated to videoing not just the games, but the event. Documenting the people and their families, and the jokes and jabs, and the silliness of friends who know each other forever. Supporters who willingly drive in the worst traffic this country has to offer, and actually pay tolls to sit in that very same traffic. Oh yes, and the people who voluntarily take mass transit on the weekend, which basically means that the train or bus has no schedule, but comes when it’s in the mood. How about the people who just come to hang out with their friends. Maybe I’m just a Floridian, but I thought it was fantastic.

Lets talk about some of the matches.

Robert Sostre & Will Rolon vs. Frank Savino & Eric Faro–  What a match! Incredible volleys and gets. One team has control then the other gets hot, and seems to have victory in their grasp to force a tiebreaker only to fall inches short. Incredibly exciting high quality match that offered everything paddleball is supposed to have.

Brian Romero and Ben Goldenberg vs. Carlito and Joe– Can the ball be hit any harder and go any faster??!!! Anyone who has ever said that Big Ball was slow certainly did not witness this game. A showcase game for the future of Big Blue. Power, speed, athleticism, and shot making. Nobody watching this game had anything but positive thoughts about this tournament.

Bobby Fiorentino and Bay Lui vs. Willie “Wheels” Chavez and Steve “The Greek”- Knock down drag out battle between three players who have played with, and against each other hundreds of times, and a player who gets to every ball and is capable of any shot from any angle on the court. Anyone who has not seen Willie play is missing out on an incredible paddleball treat! Bobby and Bay were fortunate enough to win in two, but it most likely felt like four.

Robert Sostre & Will Rolon vs. Bobby Fiorentino & Bay Lui- I’m not even sure if people realized that Bobby and Bay won the first game 21-6! It looked like there was no way that they could come back from such a decisive beating, but in true Sostre fashion he willed (no pun intended)his team to a third game tie breaker. After trailing for most of the game Rob and Will somehow figured out a way to pull out an amazing victory over two legends. Incredibly high quality paddleball.

The tournament did not end the way it should have. These great games ended up to be forgotten or overlooked. Don’t do that!! I ask you to remember these games and the excitement they generated. I ask you to remember who you were sitting next to, and what you were talking about while these games were going on. I ask you to remember the excitement you had about getting in some games with great players on the side. These matches, those thoughts , and those games are the possibility of every event. This is what will bring new players to our game.

Lastly, as everyone knows, I was a participant in that game. I speak on behalf of only myself, I would like to extend my apologies to all the referees. I know all of you many years and consider you my friends, and I hope that everyone can move forward and continue trying to make our sport better. I believe it’s worth it.

Mike D

 

 

2017 BEACH BASH SCHEDULE IS UP …IT’S TIME TO ROCK!

It’s that time of year where the best of the best in racquetball descend on Hollywood Beach to participate in what has become the “creme de la creme” of outdoor racquetball tournaments. Over 250 participants will compete in several different categories throughout the weekend to see who reigns supreme in the sport  of one-wall racquetball. Indoor and 3- wall outdoor players have come to enjoy the skill and reflexes needed to succeed in one-wall. Different angles and different swinging positions made the game very challenging to the purists in the beginning, but as the tournament has grown and the players have adapted, the once dominate NY players are now feeling the pressure from some of the dominant indoor and outdoor 3-wall players. This year should prove no different as top pros have been gearing up for this tournament for weeks by practicing their one wall skills in anticipation of competing against the world’s best.

Come out to Hollywood Beach, FL March 23 – 26 to watch some of the most exciting, hard hitting , and intense action from some of the greatest racquetball players on the planet. Not only will you enjoy the action, but also the friendly electric atmosphere that is created by the players,  and the staff that puts it all together.

Here’s an taste of some of the action you’ll see this weekend

AF 2017 Pro Series Tournament of Champions ….A Look Back

As the last of the incredible participants from out of town pack their bags and head back to the comfort of their own home, we take a look back on some of the memorable highlights of the AF PRO SERIES 2017.

Paddleball IS BACK!! Lighter paddles coupled with a live ball that rarely breaks has literally brought paddleball back from the abyss. The speed of the game is no longer an issue. Power was on display all weekend long as players like Brian Romero, Carlito Espinal, Nelson Deida and Richie Miller ripped into the ball like it was 1999. The legends of the game have jumped back in with renewed energy. Players like Frank Savino, Eddie Acevedo, and Artie Rondon on the men’s side, and Anita Maldonado, Maira Rosario Ramos, and Susan Stephen on the ladies side are back and looking to stand in the winners circle once again. Exciting volleys and incredibly close games created some breathtaking moments for all those that watched both the ladies and men’s semi-final matches.  The finals proved to be just as thrilling as the ladies match went to a tie-breaker, and the men’s final was dominated by the G.O.A.T and his partner Iggy Espinal. Paddleball is again the main event.

THE LADIES RACQUETBALL FINAL!! HolySmokes!! Anyone who was there will tell you it was like watching a great movie.  It was suspenseful, intense, exciting, heartbreaking, breathtaking, nerve racking, and most of all had an incredible ending. Two young ladies, Regina Franco and Maritza Gonzalez, playing in their first one wall event took on two extremely talented and experienced players , Susan Stephen and Ivonne Torres Irizarry, in a final match that had the crowd on the edge of their seat for an hour. Back and forth they battled in the tie-breaker. Both teams looked like victory was in their grasp only to see it slip away several times. Clutch shots in dire situations along with nerves of steel in key moments made this an instant classic. Regina and Maritza not only battling their opponents, but also trying to navigate the rules of a game they have never played. In the end it was neither the rules nor the one wall, but miscommunication between partners that lead to their defeat. The score was championship point serving 9. Serving for the match Regina slams a low power serve to Ivonne who hits a very short and soft return. The crowd gasped as they anticipated the talented 4- waller to blast a killer and take the title. As the ball came off the wall both partners had the same intentions, each one excited to end the match. It was like slow motion as both players cocked their racket back, and proceeded to defer to the other as the ball slowly bounced between them. The crowd erupted in disbelief and that sealed the match for Susan and Ivonne. WOW!

KENNY ARMWOOD and JUN HYUNG JEON’S INCREDIBLE TENNIS BALL CHAMPIONSHIP RUN!! Where did they come from, and how in the world did they do it? That’s what everyone wanted to know after they completed their incredible run to the title. They defeated players like Michael Dembin, Bobby Fiorentino, Johnny Wai, Keith, Iggy Espinal, and Robert Sostre. Basically a who’s who of finalists in tennis ball tournaments. Not bad for a team playing in their first tournament together. They came from behind in every single match as the more experienced Kenny Armwood played the father figure in calming the younger Jun’s nerves while navigating a strategy for victory. Jun coming up huge in clutch situations time and time again helped his veteran partner seal the deal. Upset after upset, they took out the number one seed, and then went on to defeat Robert Sostre and Iggy Espinal in a very exciting and surprising final. This was probably the biggest surprise victory of the tournament.

RACQUETBALL MIXED DOUBLES FINAL!! The ladies in this match played so well you could barely tell it was a mixed doubles match. Delia and Elizabeth took center stage in this emotional final as the men, David Blatt and Robert Sostre, relentlessly blasted the women to no avail as they deftly returned the ball with intensity and purpose. Sostre made some uncharacteristic unforced errors and it seemed that the team of Blatt and Colon were destined to win the title. The volleys were long, the gets were glorious, and the games were legendary as David and Elizabeth went on to defeat Robert Sostre and Delia Silva two straight. The game ended emotionally as both David and Elizabeth dropped to their knees in appreciation and disbelief of such a monumental victory. After shaking hands with their gracious opponents and hugging their spouses, the victors celebrated their big win. Liz proceeded to get carried around the court on the shoulders of her friends like Bill Parcells after defeating the Buffalo Bills in the SuperBowl, and David going into his patented Hulkamaniac impersonation. Both celebrations were well deserved, and the crowd loved it.

THE CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY CROWD!! Paddleball, racquetball, handball, and tennis ball players fill up the court to watch the Championship matches. The cheering, singing, chanting, and emotional gasps of the crowd make Championship Sunday feel like the World Cup of Soccer in Brazil. The crowd is what makes this tournament so special. Without it, it would be just another tournament. The cheering for friends, but also the respect for opponents and new players to the game is what will keep this tournament alive for years to come. The bonds of friendship that is created crosses all sports and is genuinely memorialized by the expressions on the faces in all the pictures that are taken. Next time you look through the pictures on Championship Sunday take a look at the joy on everyone’s face as they celebrate old and new friendships. That’s what this tournament is truly about.

Thank you Liz for letting mikedtvsports.com assist you in this incredible event.  We do know how hard you worked and how gracious you are.

If you would like to share your highlights let us know and we’ll publish it!

Until next year……

Mike D

Handball is Family

On February 4, 2017  the most anticipated tournament of the year, The Florida Nationals took place in Hollywood Beach, aka. “Handball Heaven. Players from all around the country flew, drove and took a bus to Hollywood, Florida for the long anticipated weekend. Top players like Timothy “Timbo” Gonzalez, Sam Sanford, Gio Vazquez, Wally Amaro, Kadeem Bush, Fabrizio “Fish” Alvarez as well as myself were the top seeds of the event.  A total of 32 teams participated, which is considered a full bracket,  yet there were still several teams that were trying to enter the event.

This tournament  brought beach goers on their way to the beautiful sand to a halt as the ferocious volleys and incredible athletic ability of the players were on full display for all to see. Most, if not all, were amazed at how a game which consists of a ball and a wall brings so many people together, and creates such an energetic and positive atmosphere . This event like most others held at this venue comes complete with photographers, and live streaming of the games which include commentary, not only of the games, but the entire scene that surrounds the event.

5th Annual Jack Moriarty Memorial Paddleball Tournament Result… Congratulations to Neal Pickett and Harriet!!

Hollywood Beach plays host to this incredible day of paddleball and fund raising. This inspiring event has grown every year since its inception five years ago. Last year, through the generosity of the players and sponsors, The Jack Moriarty Memorial Paddleball Tournament raised $3,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. There is no doubt that we’re going to top that this year!

This event holds a special place in the hearts of many of us who knew, and played with Jack over the past two decades. A true gentleman, husband, and father, Jack and his family were not only pioneers of indoor paddleball in the Bronx, but Jack and his beautiful wife Debbie were also responsible for the one wall courts in Coconut Creek, FL. Their incredible passion for each other, and the game of paddleball, I think, is felt throughout the day by all the players! Anyone who has participated in this event will tell you that it’s not just a paddleball event, but a paddleball family event. Come out to support this great cause and have a wonderful time while you’re doing it!!!