Our Last few Performances Thu 04/13, Sat 04/15, Tue 04/18, Thu 04/20, Sat 04/22, Sun 04/23.
Next Performance TBA (Usually Tue, Thu, Sat am, Sun).
Greetings from Mexico!
FLORIDA CITY JAI-ALAI FRONTON TO OPEN JUNE 10th!
April 1: Florida City, FL: It may be April Fool’s Day, but this is no April Fools joke. There will be a new jai-alai “fronton” opening June 10th . If anybody is interested in playing, the NJAA will reach out to the owners to see if they need any players on your behalf. The court length, however will be about the size of Matt’s in Connecticut. Already in June, two of our players, Rocco and Belota, will be playing at the Ft. Pierce fronton. Here are the details
Where is Florida City?
Florida City is the southernmost city in Miami-Dade country, just south of Homestead and about a 50-minute drive from downtown Miami. It is where the Florida turnpike ends and US 1 meet before reaching the Florida Keys while heading south.
Who are the owners?
John Brunetti who owns Hialeah Park, purchased the 28-acres of property for $6.7 million in late 2015 including an RV park seen above. Plans are to rebuild that RV park that takes up half the property with hotel, restaurants, an entertainment venue and stores.
Loophole in state law
Florida’s 30-year old gambling law allows a summer permit to be award to the lowest -performing pari-mutuel in a county. In 2011, less money was wagered at Hialeah Park than any of Miami-Dade’s other pari-mutuels, which enabled Brunetti to obtain the summer jai-alai permit which could open he door to the expanded gambling – and yes – poker and slots machines. Hialeah today features quarter horse races with a poker room and over 800 slot machines. State regulators tried to stop this venture from materializing but were overruled by the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee about 2 years ago.
The Jai-alai court
By now, your asking how in the world is this “fronton” going to be built and running live jai-alai games by June 11th ? - the deadline they are facing or risk suspension of the license. Actually its simple. A $200,000, 35-meter portable Plexiglas court, one of five now under construction will be set up. There are no laws on regulated court size or type of material, so something the size of Matt’s court is all they need. We understand one of the courts may be going to Cuba also. This court may be something amateur jai-alai players like us may want to look into if the Laca court and plans for the Puryear Park expansion fail to materialize. Details on those developments will be released soon.
These new hard plastic courts can be delivered on a flatbed, and take 4 days to set up and 4 days to tear down.
Florida City Jai-alai will take up 3 acres at first and 17,600 square feet are set for the jai-alai fronton. Also included are a 2,750 square foot bingo trailer, restroom trailers, and shower trailers. Portable food trucks will also be wheeled in. So the entire setup is basically on wheels!
We have no details on the format, the ball being used, the betting setup or players at this time.
Once the first jai-alai game is played, the poker room can open. This would take place likely in the bingo trailer. The first jai-alai performance must be played by June 11 and 3 more by June 18th. Once two years of jai-alai have been played – or sooner depending on decoupling – they may be eligible for the lucrative slot machines, The doubling issue is being debated in Tallahassee with the Florida Senate and House presenting vast differences in how much gambling will take place in their bills. The Senate allows for full slot machine expansion and decoupling while the House keeps it status quo – with no decoupling. Expect some kind of a compromise to be reached this session ending May 5th, but then again it might be delayed again like it has for years now.
Florida City also has those plans for hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues mentioned earlier on the property. The goal is to reach out to people going and leaving the Florida keys. The city has 12,000 residents and half of them live under the poverty line according to the U.S. Census. It is basically an agricultural city.
NJAA SETS UP TIME MAGAZINE WITH DANIA JAI-ALAI 03/30/17
Dania, FL: It took nearly 2 months to arrange, but the NJAA was instrumental in setting up Time magaizine head photographer Erik Tanner from NYC for a portrait series on Jai-alai players. The shoot, which has been going on for the past couple days is wrapping up today. The magazine, one of the top reconized in the world, may be featuring a story on jai-alai players. The NJAA was able to hook up Tanner, who normally does celebrity and politcal protraits for Time Magazine, to do one on jai-alai and we were able to hook him up with Benny. The photographer has taking phtotos of virtually every famous celebrity and political legends in the world and now adds jai-alai to it.
NJAA taking orders now on 2017 Amateur Court Championship Shirts
The NJAA is now taking orders for the new 2017 Amateur Court Championship Shirts. The all new look features the new 2017 logo on the front with the NJAA logo on the sleeve and a new look Sport-Tek shirt. The colorful shirt is lightweight and will be the official NJAA uniform shirt at Matt’s the first weekend in June. The wholesale price for ordering now is just $26 and will be available in sizes S, M, L, XL, XXL. For $28 you can order XXX-L and for $29 you can order XXXX-L. Note: these shirts are a bit “slimmer” than the other shirts of the previous two years, but still are to size listed. Order now via text, email or on the message board.
CT FL RI - 3rd Annual Amateur Court Championship June 2-3, 2017
The third annual CT FL RI Amateur Court Championship will take place the weekend of June 2-3 at Matt’s court in Berlin, Connecticut. The first two years have been such a success that two events may be planned this year, with another one tentative later in the year. The popular event draws the top amateur jai-alai players in the USA and include several former pro stars.
Once again, players will be invited to show up Thursday (June 1) and on Sunday (June 4th) in addition to the regular tournaments held on Friday and Saturdays (June 2-3). A trip to Mohegan Sun is planned for Saturday night, June 3rd. To register, please text Laca. Several of the NJAA’s top players have acknowledged they may play and this includes Scott King, Belota, Ricky, Julio, Anthony and Rocco. Organizers would like to see our “new” players like Daniel, Randy and Brodie make the trip. They would like to also see others like Eric M and Eric L show up. Eric M throws about as hard as anybody and could be a “freak of nature” out there, while the other Eric (the Vanderbilt football star) would put on a catching exhibition out there.
NJAA organizers urge players commit to playing and book their fares before they go up. Rates are very good right now and the weather in Hartford that time of year is perfect. Matt is lining up his top players and this is always a great event to play in or watch. Different tournaments are held various levels of play, so all are welcome. More details to come as they unfold.
Puryear Park Renaissance!
Among those playing Wednesday afternoon included: (Top) Randy, PCast, Chris, Thomas, Rocco, Loren, Belota,
(Bottom) Corky, Daniel, Larry, Rule, Mike, ScottK (Photo by Laca)
Missing from Photo op: Anthny, Ricky, Laca, Kulstr, EricL, EricM, Julio, Brodie, Chip, Javy, Egerbe, PaulH,
Armndo, Gino, Levi, King, EricL, Luis, Crab, George, Matt, John and a few more.
St. Petersburg, FL: What’s going on here? As we are about to enter our 10th season of playing on America’s
first public jai-alai court, the quality and quantity of play is at its all-time peak. On a beautiful sunny
and 72 degree Wednesday afternoon, 14 players were out there playing jai-alai while the rest of the park
was deserted. By the time Chris “The Kid” showed up after 5pm he was shocked to see the size of the crowd.
“Doesn’t anybody work here?!!!” he yelled out to the laugher of the crowd.
For some reason, a record 20-plus players are currently qualified for the NJAA title. In baseball terms,
this is like competing for the batting title where 502 at bats during the season are required. Never in
our 10 year history have we had this many players qualify at this time of year. Yes, it is early in the
season, and we can’t get that “all excited”.
Adding to the buzz of the great action of Puryear Park, this past month is having jai-alai legends Randy
and Daniel have become regulars. Randy played pro over an amazing four decade period that started in 1968.
As one of the great ambassadors of the game, he was the first American jai-alai player. Nobody on the
planet knows the game better than he does. Randy played at Tampa for many years and won the first game
ever played in Connecticut – at Hartford Jai-alai. Triple crown winner Daniel was one of the greatest
backcourt players of all time, playing mainly in Tampa and Miami. Even his own bobble head was made after
him while playing in Miami. Today, they go for about $100 on ebay.
Several other ex-pros have been playing on a regular basis including former star players Scott King and Ricky.
Scott King won the NJAA championship award in 2016 and is one of our top players. He played in Tampa for 13
season during the golden era of jai-alai and against one of the strongest rosters in the world. Ricky is
currently #1 in our NJAA winning percentage right after finishing 3rd last year behind Scott King and Julio.
Home-grown star player Rocco is now back on the roster fulltime after playing in Ft. Pierce this past
spring and having stints while playing at Orlando and Dania jai-alai. Flame throwing Belota, who played
pro one season in Orlando, is also a regular at Puryear Park. Because he throws so hard, he has been
frustrated with the court size and is anxiously awaiting the Laca court to finally gets built.
Former pro players Kent and Loren have made appearances this month and John Silvia has been appearing
on a regular basis and will be on the roster through April. He recently played pro jai-alai in Orlando
and was also a player at Newport, RI jai-alai. Kent was a star player at Miami jai-alai while Loren
has played in several countries and with his vast connections has made him the world’s # 1 “promoter”
of amateur events for jai-alai.
Turning to our local roster, “Mendoza Magic Mike”, the genius statistician for the NJAA, had his average
drop below under .200 (the Mendoza line) last June and was about to be demoted to “C” league action on
the racquetball courts right behind the front wall. But for some reason (was it the basket Chip gave him?),
has turned it all around since then to become a player who can virtually return any throw out there and
now averaging well over .300. Even Daniel nicknamed him “Michelena” one day.
Other players from the Seminole Middle School days of the mid 1980s are showing up frequently. Egerbie,
a legend in his own right, and named by Laca from a favorite Bridgeport Jai-alai player of his back in
the late 70, has been commuting from Georgia to play recently while his buddy Javy has been showing up
and proving that he is not “one and done Javy”.
We can only hope all this continues through the year and long live jai-alai!
Tom Contreras Remembered
Michael Contreras speaking at his father’s “Celebration of Life” in Ocala Friday afternoon
An emotional crowd of nearly 150 attended the Celebration of Life ceremony of Tom Contreras Friday afternoon in Ocala, Florida. Family and friends gathered for the guy we will miss dearly. Dozens of former jai-alai players and management were in attendance. Those speaking included Mark Beiro and Marty Fleishman who told the crowd several amusing stories about Tom from their old jai-alai days. The final speaker was Mike Contreras, the son of Tom. Tom’s three young grandchildren, whom he deeply loved were also in attendance. Several childhood friends of nearly 60 years also spoke of what a great friend Tom was.
The ceremony started with a video of Tom that included about a hundred photos of him over the years. The event was held at the Country Club of Ocala, one of Tom’s favorite golf courses. We will miss you, Tom.
Happy New Year - 2017 Begins
See News/Pelota Press for Archives of Past Activities and Stats
RIP Tom Contreras 12/18/16
Click Here for Video Tribute
TAMPA JAI-ALAI INVADES PURYEAR PARK!
St. Petersburg, FL: Spectators at little old Puryear Park Jai-alai had to take a double-look Saturday morning with a flock of former Tampa jai-alai star players all of the court at once. Regulars Scott King and Ricky Hernandez were out there along with “Four Decade Pro” Randy and Triple Crown winner Daniel Love in some great action along with several amateur jai-alai players. Scott K and Ricky are already two of our top players on America’s first public court, but now will have a little competition from a couple of jai-alai’s greatest ambassadors – Randy and Daniel.
Randy, the first American player, began his pro career in 1968 and played an amazing 26 seasons. Daniel was one of the greatest backcourters in Tampa Jai-alai history before moving to Miami to play down there after the Tampa cancha sadly closed in 1998. Daniel, who graduated from Largo High School was able to return to Pinellas county 3 years ago and has played a couple times at Puryear Park. Daniel and his wife then celebrated the first anniversary of their marriage that evening at Bern’s Steak House with the great Devore (longtime Tampa Jai-alai bartender) as his server!
When the St. Pete courts announcement was made 9 years ago about the construction of the first public court to be built in the USA, Randy and Daniel were among the first to congratulate the NJAA along with Benny and Jai-a-Lou with the news. Randy intends to play on a regular basis and after a couple throws on the court, Daniel remarked that he hadn’t changed in over 20 years and was still a great thrower! Daniel intends on playing Saturday mornings on a regular basis from now on which is great news for jai-alai fans.
Main court light replaced and readjusted
St. Petersburg, FL: One of the main jai-alai court lights – the one nearest the front wall – has been replaced and reangled to provide better lighting on the court. During yesterday’s rare Tuesday afternoon performance, players were able to talk to the maintenance crew to have them adjust the light to it covered more of the main court. After considerable work done on the light fixture, it was adjusted more away from the 3 small handball/jai-alai courts and tiled more toward the main jai-alai court. Now, more lighting is clearly visible in the front of the court – without causing any glare to the players. A special thanks to the City of St. Petersburg for the support of America’s first public jai-alai court!
Florida/Connecticut/Rhode Island Tournament Results:
Berlin, CT: The second annual National Amateur Court Jai-alai championship was completed week ending Oct 22nd, with Team Connecticut beating Team Florida and Team Rhode Island. A surprise visit Saturday from Derek Smith, the first Puryear Park player to turn pro. Here are the scores: