Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph: October 18, 2014
San Antonio, Texas
Dick Stockton, Brian Gottfried, Bill McGowan, Pancho Walthall, Jim Timmins, Butch Newman, John Newman, Gretchen Rush, Lisa Sassano Westergard, Cheyenne Duncan, Nicole Rueb, all came together on the four courts at JBSAR and brought tennis to the military. Yes, you can go home.
For me, an outsider to the group, it was an incredible experience to hear the stories from the past and to witness the camaraderie between old friends and teammates. I know Coach Clarence Mabry was there in spirit, laughing along with his charges and wondering how he survived them.
When Dick started the introductions, you could see the reactions from the participants were ones of amazement, awe and genuine appreciation. When Dick talked about Gretchen Rush being ranked Number One in the World as a junior, someone in the crowd said out loud, “That’s something!” When Dickie introduced Brian Gottfried as the Number Three Player in the World and part of the Number One Doubles Team in the World, a teenager said, “Wow. Can I get on his court?” And those are just two examples of the talent that was assembled there on Saturday, October 18, 2014.
When we got to the courts at 9:00 to finish set-up, the adjoining field was filled with military families participating in a flag football league. Many people wandered over and signed up to play tennis later that afternoon. Military families face many challenges, deployment of parents, constant moves, searching for activities for kids within base boundaries, high risk for obesity, dropping out of school, to name a few. Activities that are free or inexpensive and on base become essential to keeping it all together. T3 is laser-focused on bringing tennis to these resilient families.
Marlin Richardson and Jonathan Pettigrew work at the Fitness and Recreation Department on base. They arrived with us to begin the set-up process, and remained through-out the day until take-down. Thank you both. Although we joked and had a lot of laughs, often at our own expense, I think the day ran smoothly and efficiently as a direct result of their efforts.
We cannot say enough good things about La Familia Contardi, without whom none of the events we put on would ever run as smoothly. Steve Contardi is always visible with a clipboard and a megaphone, keeping us all moving and in line. Mario’s sharp eye for detail and soft-spoken manner make him a popular pro with the participants. I find myself standing on the edge of his court watching him coax forehands and backhands out of rank beginners.
Enough about the tennis playing Contardis. Let’s talk about the person in charge of this amazing tennis clan…Debbie Contardi. Somebody said that Debbie looks the like female version of Harry Caray, with her perfectly coifed blonde hair and big, black glasses. She shows up on the scene and I am instantly relieved and know that things at registration will run with military efficiency. Towards the end of the 90 plus degree day, Debbie took to the Contardi van to get an AC fix and to take a breather, but that didn’t stop her from running the show. She rolled down the window and told us all what to do regarding take-down. She gets the “Line of the Day Award” with this gem: “Oh, I don’t need to be out there, I like sitting here in the van shouting out orders.” And she is darn good at it. Take-down ran like clockwork.
There are more Contardis to thank. Katie Contardi and her husband Brian were also at the Registration Desk. They didn’t need to be told what to do. I have never had the pleasure of working with two more enthusiastic, as well as upbeat volunteers. Brian did everything from sign-in, to take-down, to removing banners, to helping me pack the Beast (the big blue F150). Katie is like her mom, efficient, professional and tireless. Did I mention that she is a constant ray of sunshine? Again, thank you doesn’t seem to be enough for all the Contardis do.
The Contardi clan can now be found at the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in New Braunfels, TX, running the Legends Tennis Fantasy Camp for the next 5 days. This is the 27th anniversary of Fantasy Camp, and I know that all 104 campers, as well as the Legends, are looking forward to being in the presence of greatness, Mr. Rod Laver. This is Rod’s first appearance at Fantasy Camp and if I wasn’t so fearful of all the testosterone and other lethal male-related things, I would be tempted to hang around just to hear what The Greatest of All Time Tennis Player had to say. Enjoy campers! (If you don’t know what the Tennis Fantasy Camp is all about, please look it up- it’s the brain child of Steve Contardi and if you, or anyone you know is a tennis fanatic, this could be the most awesome present ever).
T3 is a family affair. Dickie gets all the credit for this incredible idea, and all of us related to him have pitched in to help make his dream of bringing tennis to military bases a reality. My sister, mom, father, brother and nephews have all participated in events. This past Saturday, Dick’s son Cole and daughter-in-law Chelsea drove from Austin, TX to help with the JBSAR event. Not only was it wonderful to visit with Cole and Chelsea, but they were a great addition to the volunteer crew as well. Thanks so much Chelsea and Cole. We look forward to being together again in the very near future….
We have had the great fortune of having Trevor Chan as our T3 photographer. This weekend, however, because of the proximity of JBSAR and Fantasy camp, T3 was able to have Fantasy Camp and professional photographer Ken Munson take pictures. Thank you Ken for your incredible eye and for your time. T3 is truly blessed to be able to have two world class photographers recording our memories. Ken is now shooting tennis legends and weekend warriors at Fantasy Camp. Have fun Ken!
Alan Waterman was our USO representative and lunch legend. He is a happy soul who loves tennis, the USO and tennis! Alan was not only able to serve lunch, drinks, snacks and fruit to everyone, but he participated in the last adult clinic. Add “good tennis player” to his list of attributes. Thank you Alan, we enjoyed you as much as you enjoyed the event.
After tagging along with the Trinity tennis legends, Dickie and Brian dropped me off at the airport in San Antonio. They headed to New Braunfels, and I got ready to fly back to South Florida. Already I miss them! Thank you Brian Gottfried for being such a good friend and a calming presence. Bill McGowan hired me as a tennis pro when I moved to Dallas, and I will never forget his kindness and all the lessons he taught me. It was great to spend time with him once again. No matter how many times I spend time with Dickie’s contemporaries/good friends, I always leave in awe of their humility, dignity and loyalty.
Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph is T3’s last event for 2014. We had an incredible year and are now setting our sights on the Pacific Tour in the spring, “Boots on the Courts,” as well as England and Germany. Come along for the ride!