Monday, September 03, 2012

US Open Salutes the Military Day

Today at the US Open, it was salute the Military Day.  There were a bunch of guys one of the boxes from various branches and military hospitals.
Ryan McIntosh - Stud
So today Ryan McIntosh, a US Army vet, was one of the men saluted - and he wanted to be a ball person.  I am copying his story from the US Open site (LINK here).  But I think the greatest gift I can give (because I can't really do much for him) is to treat him like anyone else.  So let me say - before the story - there was a really hot ball person today at the US Open.  And, he is a vet, so saying he is cute isn't disgusting as he is plenty old enough to be hot.

Army veteran McIntosh making Open experiences count as ballperson

Ryan McIntosh
By Nicholas J. Walz
Monday, September 3, 2012
Today, Ryan McIntosh is a ballperson patrolling the courts at the 2012 US Open – starting, stopping, and throwing. His job is to maintain near invisibility in his work, but its hard not to look at McIntosh and be reminded of his previous job: U.S. Army veteran.

While serving in the Arghandab River Valley of Kandahar, located in southwest Afghanistan, McIntosh slipped on a pressure-plate landmine, with the blast claiming his lower right leg below the knee. His regular walking prosthesis is fashioned with a white Ralph Lauren tennis shoe, but when its time to start his day, he snaps on the secret weapon he had been carrying around in his knapsack: A slightly bended leg with a thick rubber sole, seen commonly now at amputee track meets, designed to maximize speed and balance.

“I’m excited just to be a part of this,” said McIntosh. “It’s a chance for me to spread my word for fellow soldiers and Wounded Warriors alike.”

The 23-year-old from San Antonio, Tex. remains as mission-focused now as he did on December 8, 2010, the day his life shifted halfway around the world.

"I was in the Army for all of seven months when I got hit," said McIntosh, who was stationed in Fort Carson, Colo., before deployment to the Middle East. He is growing to enjoy the game. "Sports have been part of my life for as long as I can remember and I still play all the sports I can, but tennis is something I’ve had experience with once in a blue moon" He also feels a duty towards all veterans as a representative of the USTA Military Outreach movement on Monday, designated as US Open Military Appreciation Day.

In just his first year on ballperson patrol, McIntosh has made it all the way to Arthur Ashe Stadium. While nine of his fellow Wounded Warriors were being honored on the JumboTron, they pointed down towards their compatriot working behind the baseline during the Serena Williams/Andrea Hlavackova match. CBS television, broadcasting in the United States, put cameras upon him in action as part of their match coverage.

Media requests to speak about his Open experience have been steady. McIntosh is not vain, but knows that there’s a purpose to his promotion through the ranks.

“I want (veterans) to realize that they can do anything that they want to do.”

McIntosh had a successful on-court audition at the 2012 US Open Ballperson Tryouts in June at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, making the cut past 500 fellow applicants then and another 150 at his callback in July. McIntosh learned about the opportunity to become a US Open ballperson while taking part in the 2012 Warrior Games, an annual Olympic-style competition for United States Armed Forces veterans with disabilities, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"The idea was introduced to me, and I was told that [Ballperson Tryouts] was a program that was open for a couple of years and that they thought I’d be a perfect candidate,” said McIntosh. “I ended up working all of the qualifying tournament and then I showed up for the main draw and the first day, I actually worked on Armstrong with James Blake, so that was pretty cool,” said McIntosh, referring to Louis Armstrong Stadium and a 7-5, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win by Blake over Lukas Lacko.

“It was kind of nerve-wracking at the same time considering the true training started the Sunday before quallies.”

Standing on his running prosthesis is a challenge for McIntosh, as it is a different height compared to his walking leg and is not comfortable. During changeovers, he takes the leg off as bystanders watch with curiosity.

“I want to adjust it, make sure its fitting right and in the right position,” said McIntosh. He’ll have to make it through another week of action, but isn’t deterred by the prospect – in fact, he’d like to come back and take part once more in 2013.

“Its been pretty fun – a very good family down there in the ballperson lounge,” said McIntosh. “We’re very close. You have to work as a team when you’re out there on the court, similar to my military upbringing.”

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