Mark Villarico Paddleball Profile By Dave Siegel
He’s one of the best players ever from Long Island – one of the 10 best small ball competitors in the game today. Mark Villarico has all the tools. He has great power and is exceedingly fast with his hands, using strong forearms and wrists to “snap” his shots. He is able to dominate the court using excellent footwork to position himself to mount his offense, especially off the return of serve. Mark has all the shots: killers, spikes, a devastating low well-placed serve, steady left hand and he is a winner. But who is he really? He is also low key, humble and most of the paddleball community doesn’t know much about Mark’s background. Also, I’m sure very few, if any, know something very, very remarkable about Mark’s late mother, but this profile is about Mark and paddleball, so you’ll have to wait.
Mark actually started out playing tennis in Newbridge Park in Bellmore and he couldn’t help but notice the adjacent competitive paddleball action. He just had to be part of it! He started playing the game at age 15 at Newbridge and continued until he was 17. A little historical note: Newbridge Park was the original mecca of paddleball back in the late 60s and early 70s (before Mark’s time), where the first successful paddleball organization, the American Paddleball Association (APA), originated. All of the early big tournaments were under the auspices of the APA. Getting back to Mark, he started playing paddleball really seriously when he was 25, traveling to many parks throughout Long Island, Queens and the Bronx. He had the good fortune to learn from some of the best players: Richie Miller, Anthony Fiorino, Donnie Ciaffone and Hoppy.
Mark’s game continued to develop and by the late 90s, he was among the best players. In 1998 he soured on tournament play and took a five year hiatus from competitive paddleball, after which he re-emerged once again as a serious player and his game continued to ascend. He has been playing at his present high level for approximately 6 years. Mark works hard to hone his skills. He exercises regularly to stay in paddleball shape, plays at least twice a week, eats well and he feels that his game is still improving. One of the factors that keeps him going is his desire to help the sport to flourish. He has great respect for the people who are leading the drive to accomplish this like Mike and all the hard work he puts in, including the kids clinics, as well as Jay and Charlene. He especially values the efforts to maintain professionalism, especially in tournaments.
Mark’s very early years were spent nomadically living in many countries, including several years in Italy, where he learned to speak fluent Italian. He eventually came back to the United States, settling in Queens, then Long Island. He is married, has 3 kids, ages 25, 13 and 8. Mark has been a successful home improvement contractor for 22 years. He also plays tennis, volleyball, baseball, softball, he mountain bikes and is an avid paintballer.
OK, what’s so astonishing about Mark’s mother? Well, in her youth, she lived for a time in Beverly Hills and one day she hid in the garage of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Yes, that’s none other that Elvis! And they hit it off!! They dated for several years!!! In Elvis’ later years, they even reconnected. All I can say is WOW!!!!