Diehards and the Cobb’s Hill Tennis Courts

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Scott (left) and myself [Photo by Nhan Luong]

Scott (pictured above) came to the Cobb’s Hill courts because Penfield had turned out the lights. And Fairport had taken down its nets.

Scott didn’t have to worry. At Cobb’s Hill the nets never go down. And the lights–now set for 5pm – 10pm–stay on until Thanksgiving. And during winter thaws, real diehards have been known to clear away snow, the green asphalt a patch of tundra on a melting glacier.

Set in the City of Rochester near the Brighton town line, the courts–like all of Cobb’s Hill–are part of this urban melting pot oasis. In the summer, the same tennis players may then go down the path to watch or play croquet, watch the model boats skim across Lake Riley or just enjoy a barbecue and music at the Lodge or on the picnic tables. (Much more on Cobb’s Hill at end.)

As explained to me by James Farr of the City of Rochester Department of Recreation, the six lighted  tennis courts at Cobbs Hill Park, completely rebuilt and the lighting upgraded in 2013, are some of the most used in the City’s system of around 35 public courts. Besides the intensive recreational use that often requires a wait for court time, the courts are also utilized to host  the City’s adult tennis lesson program and numerous school practices and interscholastic matches and are the home courts for Monroe High School.

The courts attract people of all ages, places, races and ethnicities. I have seen boys playing from the Talmudical Institute of Upstate New York on Park Avenue, as well as Morman missionary young men from Far Western states like Utah and Idaho.

Recently, I met a group of four Vietnamese-American men, along with Scott and his friend Nhan, who play regularly at the Hill and invited me to join. On that frosty but sunny enough morning, I thought it would be my last opportunity to play this season (fitting as it would also be my first). But as Mr. Farr said, at Cobb’s Hill the season never really ends.

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Left to right, Duong, Chau, Scott, and Tai (fourth player not in photo)

While he does not like to call himself the leader, Chau Luong seems to be the driving force bringing the men out no matter the conditions.

Chau, like the others in the quartet, came from Vietnam about thirty years ago. For many years now, he has been a lead chef at the University of Rochester. In Vietnam, ping pong was more popular than tennis. It was in Rochester about 25 years ago that Chau became an avid player. He’ll play anywhere he can, including even in snow at Genesee Valley Park. When Chau’s three children went to the School of the Arts, he volunteered to help coach the tennis team.

If anything demonstrates the melting pot that is Cobb’s Hill, it is the Quartet (along with Scott and Nhan). Chau and his friends are proud Vietnamese-Americans who like and give back to Rochester. At one point, I asked Chau if he considered retiring in Vietnam. No, rattling off a list of reasons, including pollution. I didn’t realize pollution was such a factor. He told me he had a college degree in Vietnam and knew quite a bit. But actually it was much less pollution — Chao would hate giving up his tennis (and his friends)!

As for tennis itself, I confess it is not my racquet sport. In my earlier days, I was a competitive badminton player. I find tennis to be a plodding and an inexact affair. (I will take up that awkward racquet when duty at Talker  requires a photo op). I retired late last century after capturing third place and a t-shirt at an University of Rhode Island intramural tournament. My skills were eroding, and I didn’t want to blemish what I call the “game Sublime.” Barely known in the United States is that badminton is the second most played sport in the world after soccer. They have their beautiful game; we our game sublime.

Rochester itself has a small badminton community. (I learned the game on grass on a homemade court in the backyard.) The sport was most popular when Kodak had Friday open nights at its Lake Avenue headquarters, drawing about a hundred employees, retirees and community members.  We also played at the UofR Palestra; the University still has a Club open to the public. Games were played, and still may be, at the India Community Center on Macedon Road. Today, the most popular venue is the Webster Recrational Center (the old Xerox facility). The Rochester Christian Community Church on Lake Avenue opens its courts on Thursday nights. About 15 years ago, my father, who played the game sublime before migrating to table tennis, watched a professional tournament at the Midtown Tennis bubble.  Alas, the City of Rochester Recreation Department does not have any badminton courts.  Not yet, although Mr. Farr is open to the idea.

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This morning Big Gulp and I hit the tennis ball motherload! [Photo by D. Tucker]

Those who read Talker may have recognized that I have some unconventional, if not borderline eccentric, habits. One is that many early mornings I go to the Seven Eleven on Monroe Avenue and there refill my Big Gulp with coffee. (A bargain at $1.69.)

The first cup is poured from one of the benches at the Cobb’s Hill courts. I have discovered that almost invariably tennis balls from the day before are lying around, on the courts, on the sidelines or in the wooded area behind the fences, which I retrieve. My take ranges from between 2 – 14 balls a session.  I give the balls to friends with dogs.  Still, there are hundreds in my garage. I sell the balls at my June yard sale which this year (come by!) will be held as a fundraiser for Talker. (Remember, loyal readers, keeping this site going costs about 60 dollars a month.)

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