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Up to the minute: Ballpersons at the 2024 Miami Open 


Up to the minute: Ballpersons at the 2024 Miami Open 

You might have caught a glimpse of 

66-year-old equity management big shot/

cycling enthusiast Tony Downer or sweet wonderkid Kamila Biasetti, just two of more than 400 Ballpersons scurrying around Hard Rock Stadium, whether you’re watching The Tennis Channel or on the grounds – right now – at the 2024 Miami Open (presented by itaú.

Most of them worldly, physically-fit, and tennis-savvy, Ballpersons, who this year range anywhere from 13-70 years of age are responsible, in part, for keeping the on-court tennis action moving swiftly, per Director of Ballpersons, Marc Adler. 

The ‘Ballpersons’ are broken into two shifts, as Adler works digently to accommodate personal preferences, but one constant remains: time is of essence for all of them, especially when Carlos Alcaraz nods for a new set of tennis balls or Jessica Pegula needs a fresh towel. 

But while Downer and Biasetti might be worlds apart right down to their choice of breakfast each morning, they, like all of their closest fuchsia and navy blue-clad friends, are fueled by the test of time. If not, their love for tennis and in some cases .. a snapshot or two of Coco Gauff.

Here’s a ‘Day in the Life’ timeframe 🎾 with some extra hitting from Downer and Biasetti 🎾 for a ‘Ball Person’ at the Miami Open. (Note: Eating a good breakfast is highly encouraged, while asking for autographs is … just okay. Maybe.😉)

6:30 AM: It’s just about time to get up and out of a bed somewhere in South Florida for your favorite ‘Ball Person’ including Downer, who opts for a rental car to make the 25 minute commute to Hard Rock Stadium. 

“I’m up early and ready to go,” Downer, a fourth year ‘Ball Person’, and one of the oldest this year. A longtime Miami Open attendee, he has been associated with the tournament longer than most of the kids racing by him on a recent afternoon inside a club level — have been alive. 

“The Miami Open is a special event where I’ve made friends and memories to last a lifetime. So, who wouldn’t want to get out of bed?” 

Downer, part trim, part slight, is probably making short work of his glass of orange juice and granola bar, at the same time the soft-spoken and wide-eyed Biasetti, born in Caracas, Venezuela to Italian and Venezuelan parents, but raised in Miami, is deciding on whether to have a ham and cheese sandwich, again, or planning a strategy to convince her parents to make a fast food run before arriving at the Miami Open before 8 a.m. 

(Whenever she’s not sneaking in one of her guilty pleasures: *una arepita con queso.)

I’ll get anything to eat .. as long as it’s quick, yeah.. ,” said Biasetti, a freshman at Doral Academy who’s obsession with hydrating with plenty of water has apparently also given her aspiring tennis career quite a boost. 

(Hint: Google her. Biasetti is probably already getting plenty of dirty looks at the Kendall Town Tennis Center in Miami.)

8:00 AM: First-shift, 2024 Miami Open Ballpersons, all expected to be enthusiastic and have a genuine love for tennis, no matter what time of the day it is, arrive at their headquarters inside a club level of Hard Rock Stadium, and sign-in before looking for their respective 3X5 card — which is filled with a specific itinerary for each individual ‘Ballperson’. 

Adler, then, addresses the large contingent, in addition to going over the good, the bad and the ugly of the previous day or just offer up a little motivation

“He might even throw a couple war stories in there,” cracks Downer. 

9:00 AM: Yes, being part of the ‘team’ 

comes with its perks: Two sets of LaCoste uniforms, wristbands, shoes, meal allowances, 10 stadium tickets (to enjoy with for family or friends), parking passes, a post-tournament letter stating you’ve completed 65 hours as a volunteer. 

And if that wasn’t enough to fill your tennis bag or get you in the mood for lobster pizza, there’s a post-tournament party, with music, food and cool prices. 

Being a ballperson is no easy slice, you know. You’re exposed to the hot sun all day, chasing balls (across the court), and holding an umbrella over players during a changeover. Therefore, it’s critical that you stay up on keeping a player’s rhythm and routine intact. “It’s a hugh responsibility.. and one that comes with lots of prestige because you’re one of the most important people on the court.”

That’s why this is around the time spent in and around the tennis grounds for a walkthrough which Biasetti, set on someday being a tennis pro, uses to check out some of the practice rounds, with a special interest in Alcaraz and Gauff. “I’m always checking out like their serves .. you know. It’s one, if not the hardest, aspect of the game to get right.”

Biasetti, like most ‘Ballpersons’, opts for a little ping-pong or to catch up with some of her friends, if she has extra time. 

“This is a lot of fun; once a year like a reunion” said Downer, while ribbing a fellow ‘Ballperson’ about showing up with an undercooked turkey for Thanksgiving dinner last year. “We’re making memories here that will last a lifetime.”

10:20 a.m-10:40 a.m. (approx.): Each ‘Ballperson’ gets his/her court assignment, before heading out for their on-court duties. “I’ve been lucky enough to do Grandstand and Court No.6,” said Biasetti. “My favorite is working the net because you have to constantly be ready and on the move. I’m kinda like impatient .. so, no, I don’t like staying still too long.”

Lunchtime: There’s no telling how long a given match can take at the (2024) Miami Open, especially when you factor the threat of a rain delay or unexpected injury. But ‘Ballpersons’, who snack on Gatorade, and potato chips, among other munching favs, are free to go for lunch whenever they please — given their time slot is accounted for. Most opt for a protein-filled lunch, while using the amount of money alloted onto their individual Photo I.D. badge. 

Unless, you’re Biasetti, who doesn’t stray away too far from her favorite kind of sandwich. “I try to keep it simple.”

3:00 PM (approx.) In some cases a ‘Ballperson’ has arranged to call it a day. If not, it’s onto the next match for many of them at the tennis tournament. Keep in mind: a set shift can last 10 hours, so a lot of the morning arrivals remain at Hard Rock Stadium until 6 p.m.

“My physical conditioning, for sure, helps me get through the day, ” said Downer, known to stack up the miles on his cycling rides. 

“But to do a great job out here it requires strong hand and eye coordination, not to mention the ability to make the right decision at the right time. That means knowing the game of tennis is a must.” 

Fernie Ruano, a South Florida-based marketing copywriter and content creator who once shared a bag of candy with Maria Sharapova, has written about sports, culture and Latin music for more than two decades. 

A former staff writer at Miami New Times and the Miami Herald, in addition to being an advertising agency utility guy, he is open for smart business at @bet_on_305_fernie.

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