Sunday, June 17, 2018
Sports

Gulfport teenager makes rapid ascent in his new sport: wheelchair tennis

David Herman said when his son Chris first started playing tennis a year and a half ago, he hoped the Gulfport teenager would be able to hit a few back over the net.

Now the father is trying to keep up with the 14-year-old.

"It's amazing," David said. "He gets out there and his game has gotten to a level where he could beat a lot of able-bodied kids."

You see, Chris Herman is in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down since a car accident four years ago. But he hasn't let it keep him down, with his rapid rise in his favorite sport bringing him to Seoul, South Korea, today for the 17th annual Paribas World Team Cup wheelchair tennis tournament. The youngest of three teens selected for the junior national team, Herman is representing the United States in singles and doubles this week, with more than 160 players from 25 countries playing in the arena that hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics.

"I was kind of hopeful I might get on the team this year, but when we got the call, it was just incredible," Chris said. "I felt so happy. It's just amazing how I've gotten to be here."

David said he's impressed with how his son remained positive, even after his life changed in the September 2008 crash that resulted in a spinal cord injury. Chris doesn't remember much of it, keeping his focus on the future.

"In the beginning it was pretty rough, because I was just thrown into this," Chris said. "But I try not to think about it and tried to get through it. I just didn't want to sit at home. I wanted to go do something."

So Chris tried track and field, ice hockey and basketball. "But tennis was just the one that really clicked for me," he said.

Chris practices almost every day, hitting with his dad at the Pasadena Yacht and Country Club, where he works with a coach once a week. His brother Michael, 10, and sisters, Courtney, 16, and Teagan, 5, help shag balls for him.

But first, like most eighth-graders, Chris has to finish his homework. He's home-schooled, taking classes online through Florida Connection. He does three or four lessons each day, with his mother, Kristi, the learning coach. Next year, however, he plans to enroll at St. Petersburg Catholic.

"I'm looking forward to it," Chris said. "I'm going to try out for the tennis team and see how I do. I think I've got a good shot."

David said the main rules difference between regular tennis and wheelchair tennis is players get two bounces instead of one. But as far as skill level, Chris has a good knack for the game, and he impressed the junior national team's coaches enough in just one year of competing in tournaments to get the nod.

"He already possesses a big serve and forehand at a young age, and the future looks really exciting for him," said John Devorss, coach of the junior national team. "We are looking for Chris to gain some valuable experience to help further his development into a top open player in the future. He will be a big part of our junior team's success for years to come."

David said Chris, as well as the entire family, has come a long way in handling the adversity and making everything feel as normal as possible. After all, David said, it could have been a lot worse.

"That's what you keep saying over and over and over after it happens, but it's tough to get through," David said. "Our whole family was thrown into this world of paralysis and wheelchairs and stuff you don't really think about. Chris, the day before the accident, is out there doing everything other kids do, playing football. The accident happens and he's in the hospital for several weeks, and you're wondering how you're going to manage. But life goes on, and you figure it out. Chris never gave up."

Chris acknowledges he doesn't know if he will ever walk again, but he is still dreaming big, hoping this week's first trip out of the country won't be his last.

"I want to see how far I can get myself in this sport, and my goal for right now is in four years try to make it to the Paralympics in Brazil," he said. "Hopefully, I'll make it."

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
For starters: Rays at Yankees, looking to avoid a four-game sweep

For starters: Rays at Yankees, looking to avoid a four-game sweep

UPDATE, 11:37: Interesting decision by the Rays to move Adames to 2B today and reinstall Hechavarria at SS as he came off DL following Arroyo injury.Here is the Rays lineup:Duffy 3bBauers 1bRamos cCron dhAdames 2bHechavarria ssGomez rfRefsnyder lfFie...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Tarpons’ Castillo, North squad notch FSL All-Star Game victory

TAMPA — The Tarpons' Diego Castillo led the North squad to a 5-0 victory in the 57th Florida State League All-Star Game on his home field Saturday night.The game MVP went 2-for-4 with two doubles and started the scoring for the North in the sec...
Published: 06/17/18

Captain’s Corner: Trout bite at its best

The trout bite has been the best I’ve seen all year. Fish up to 26 inches have been common recently. Fish are sitting on the flats’ deeper edges, where the water is deeper and cooler, and moves a little more swiftly. Live sardines and hard plastic ba...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Peering into the crystal baseball to see what Rays could look like in 2019

Peering into the crystal baseball to see what Rays could look like in 2019

The Rays are still talking, as they should, about playing for something this season. The reality is that almost every move they've made, going back to the end of last season, and in some cases further, has been about 2019 and beyond.Clearing out vete...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rays lose again to Yankees, this time 4-1

Rays lose again to Yankees, this time 4-1

NEW YORK — Kevin Cash was not going to go all Lou Piniella on his Rays, raging and ripping and roaring over their latest mess, a 4-1 Saturday loss to the Yankees that didn't feel that close.Which is too bad because Piniella, the volcanic former...
Published: 06/16/18

Sports on TV/radio for Sunday, June 17

TODAYAutosXfinity: Iowa 250 qualifying2:30 p.m.FS2Xfinity: Iowa 2505 p.m.FS1BaseballMarlins at Orioles1 p.m.FSFRays at Yankees2 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMAstros at Royals2 p.m.MLBRed Sox at Mariners (in progress)5 p.m.MLBCubs at Cardinals8 p.m.ESPNCollege b...
Published: 06/16/18
Rays journal: Arroyo on DL, Hechavarria returns

Rays journal: Arroyo on DL, Hechavarria returns

NEW YORK — Just when it seemed like SS Adeiny Hechavarria might not play another game for the Rays, he will rejoin them on Sunday.The Rays announced after Saturday's 4-1 loss that INF Christian Arroyo was placed on the DL due to an oblique stra...
Published: 06/16/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

RHP Ryne Stanek did his job as the opener just fine in getting four outs on Saturday, but for the Rays' unorthodox pitching plan to work it takes a team effort. And LHP Ryan Yarbrough's inability to throw strikes quickly put them in a hole.The experi...
Published: 06/16/18
For starters: Rays at Yankees, trying to break through

For starters: Rays at Yankees, trying to break through

UPDATE, 11:49: Cash said he played Cron at 1B in an effort to get him more involved in the game, indicated he may do so again Sunday (with Bauers off vs. LH Sabathia) and should have done so more as Cron struggled. … Cash reiterated that CF Kev...
Published: 06/16/18
Bucs journal: O.J. Howard poised to take off?

Bucs journal: O.J. Howard poised to take off?

TAMPA — There's always a lot of attention on the rookie class this time of year, rightfully so. There's a reason the Bucs focused on defense, and DT Vita Vea, CBs M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis and S Justin Whitehead all look like they could have ...
Published: 06/16/18