Friday, January 28, 2011

Happy 36th Birthday Jason Mannino!

Many athletes retire without a clear idea of what they are going to do other than "spend more time with my family." Not you. You took on the leadership role of the International Racquetball Tour (IRT) full time last summer after assuming the position from Dave Negrete in November 2009.

You won 22 IRT tournaments over your career, putting you 6th all time, and including two US Open titles in 1999 and 2006 - only Sudsy Monchik and Kane Waselenchuk have won more US Opens. Moreover, you were the #1 player at the end of the 2002-03 IRT season and a top 10 player from 1995-96 until your retirement at the end of the 2009-2010 season. Those fifteen top 10 finishes - fourteen of which were in the top 5 - are more than anyone else in the last 20 IRT seasons.

Your game style was unique, as you relied on a variety of half lob serves rather drive serves that are the usual weapon of professional racquetball players. Moreover, you were unrelenting in your effort to keep the ball in play during rallies. Anyone watching you play could be assured of seeing at least one dive during a game and often more than one on a single rally.

Your promise was evident early, as you won singles in Boy's 18 and under at Junior Worlds in 1994 to go with the Boy's 18 and under doubles title you won at Junior Worlds in 1992 with Monchik. That singles title is even more remarkable considering it came only two months after beginning to play again following severe injuries you suffered in a car accident.

Yes, you had a great impact on the IRT over your 192 appearances on tour (3rd most all time behind Cliff Swain and Ruben Gonzalez), but as the IRT commissioner you could have even greater impact.

You've had an action packed 36 years, and we wish you many more.

Follow the bouncing ball....

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