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Anthony Rodriguez – Youth Paddleball Profile No1 by Mike Melendez

He is a special kid, an “A” student, accepted to Amber National Elementary Honor Society, which is his proudest moment so far in his young life. He has his parents’ DNA for one-wall sports, hence he is one of the top students in the PFA Paddleball Clinic and is one of the most promising youth paddleball talents in the game today. At Zerega, Orchard Beach, Red Hook and other one-wall courts across the tri-state area, you can often find him practicing by himself, with other kids or with adults. Like his favorite superhero, “The Panther,” the kid is everywhere! It seems like his dream of being able to perform “teleportation” is already a reality!

Li’l Anthony Rodriguez, A-Rod, as he likes to be called, is the pride and joy of two outstanding paddleball and racquetball players: Anthony and Kim Rodriguez. He is 11 years old and is a heck of a paddleball player. To me there is no doubt that if he keeps playing, he will win many paddleball championships as part of the next paddleball generation. However, because he is such a good athlete, paddleball does not have his full attention. You see, at the moment, basketball is his favorite sport, but paddleball is right behind, a close second. I asked him what piqued his interest in playing paddleball. To my surprise, it was not his parents’ love of the game. “I saw a few kids playing at the PFA’s paddleball clinic at Zerega and wanted to join them.” Li’l Anthony likes paddleball because it “keeps me active, fit and improves my hand-eye coordination.” His favorite shot is the low serve, which he is proud of because it required lots of practice to develop. Even though his number one sport is basketball, his favorite thing to do is “play paddleball outdoors!”

I love to coach him because he is passionate about being the best and he strives for perfection by practicing every chance he gets – two qualities needed in life to be the BEST we can be. Li’l Anthony is by far the hardest working kid in the PFA Youth Program. It’s remarkable that at this young age, he is able to balance his sports activities with his schoolwork, while maintaining his “A” student status. His favorite day of the week is Wednesday, “because I’m able to attend school, play basketball and paddleball.” Like his favorite color, neon green, “Wednesday is bright and fun! It is the perfect day of the week!” What is the meaning of good sportsmanship on the court? “Have a good attitude and shake hands at the end of game. If a bad call goes against you, take it over and move on.” He loves the PFA clinic because it teaches him how to play the game better and enables him to meet new friends that can last a lifetime.

On the personal side, A-Rod’s favorite subject in school is Math. His dream is to become a professional basketball player. And who is his sport hero? Of course it’s A-Rod! But not Alex Rodriguez, formerly of the Yankees, it is his father Anthony Rodriguez, the paddleball player! His favorite movie, of course, is “Black Panther.” Jack Sullivan, who writes great kids stories about Zombie fighters, is his favorite author. With everything this special kid has going for him, it’s surprising to hear him say that he is shy and he feels a bit uncomfortable playing in front of big crowds, but the PFA clinic is teaching him how to relax and feel more at ease.

The Panther is coming to courts near you. A-Rod Got Next!