2019, Orleans Arena, Las Vegas - Between Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, Buddy the Ball himself, in mascot form, was there to help cheer on top level pro tennis players as they competed for World Team Tennis’ King Trophy – An acclaimed prize that’s become an annual tradition for more than forty years, started by the great Billie Jean King.
For Buddy to be a part of a Vegas show-biz, Cirque De Soleil type of stage was a thrill. That's exactly the type of atmosphere that was created. In fact, Cirque’s head of marketing, Sally Dewhurst, was the general manager for Vegas’ World Team Tennis team, the Vegas Rollers. She was also in charge of working with the Orleans arena to put on the show. She did wonders! Along with Ryan Wolfington, Mary Maragos, Maureen Caruso, and Rob Merriman of Nevada’s USTA, Trent Alinek of Inspiring Children’s Foundation, WTT league officials, and countless volunteers, Dewhurst set a new bar by reaching WTT record attendance.
From July 20 – July 30, which included the tail-end of what is a hasty season and the finals, teams put their best line-ups on court as they tried to string together collective wins from the unique WTT format – men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles. Not necessarily in that order, but the different combos play first to five games and a one-point deciding tiebreaker if it gets to three all. All to make for a competitive arena, and an even more fun environment.
“It’s fast-paced and it’s fun,” Tim Blenkiron, head coach of the Vegas Rollers said about the format. “Loving every moment.” A well-established player and coach, Blenkiron was in his first season coaching a team at World Team Tennis. With help from music celebrity and assistant coach, Redfoo, together they focused on morale and of course wins.
Meanwhile Buddy focused on spirit. He cheered on the players, players such as Sam Querrey, Feliciano Lopez, Mike and Bob Bryan, Matt Reid, Monica Puig, Vegas’ Asia Mohamed and Evan Song, Britain’s Harriet Dart, and a heap of others. More importantly Buddy cheered on the fans, and a crowd of future tennis players. He launched Buddy/Inspiring Children’s Foundation Tennis Shirts into that crowd. When those ran out he passed out mini Buddies – tennis balls decorated like Buddy the Ball. After that he danced. He danced with fans as he ran up and down the stands. He danced to DJ Snake. He shuffled in front of Redfoo. He danced in front of the crowd to no end. He even battled in a dance-off with the Rollers’ mascot Tennis Elvis. It’s hard to beat the King of Pop, especially on “King’s” court, but it did result in a bigger-than life friendship, as both mascots were bigger than life. Hopefully that doesn’t go to the King’s big head. And the overall goal was to befriend fans to the sport.
Before World Team Tennis kicked off, our Buddy visited many of the Vegas local tennis clubs to take pictures and pass out free tickets for the show. One coach, Lew DeLeon, from a top-rated Arbors Tennis Club said Buddy stopping by was an awesome encounter for his students. “It was a nice mix and motivated them,” DeLeon said. Our mascot felt the same way.
Essentially, what’s it like to be a mascot, our inside man commented, “Sweaty.” But he said it was well worth it. When it came to some of the impressions, better than Santa.
The event that spanned over 10 days got national television coverage from CBS Sports and will be returning in 2020. Count on Buddy being there too!