Tim Crosby didn't plan on becoming a tennis coach. In fact, he hardly played tennis as a youth and instead was a baseball player _ and a good one.
Baseball began for Crosby in Little League in St. Petersburg. He also played at Bishop Barry (now St. Petersburg Catholic) and with an American Legion team. Two years at St. Petersburg Junior College landed Crosby at Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa, on a baseball scholarship. While at SPJC, the shortstop was moved to pitcher during his second year and went on to earn junior college All-America honors with an 8-2 record on the mound.
"Since I grew up in Florida, the snow in Iowa chased me away," Crosby said. "After four days, I came home, sat out a year and coached baseball and basketball teams at St. Paul's and did some maintenance work. That made me realize I wanted to finish school."
When Crosby learned that Saint Leo was starting a four-year program, he enrolled for his last two years and was a member of the school's first graduating class in 1964. Crosby was also the school's first physical education major.
"I graduated in April and had planned to go back to St. Petersburg but had an opportunity to stay on at Saint Leo," Crosby said. "And, I've never left."
That was 37 years ago.
For the first three years, Crosby coached baseball and was Dean of Men from 1969 to '71. In 1967, the school asked Crosby to coach the men's and women's tennis teams. As a result, Crosby dug into the tennis world to become as good as he was in baseball. The associate professor networked with tennis professionals around the state and eventually achieved certification from the U.S. Professional Tennis Association.
"I built a tennis court in my backyard in Dade City in 1974," Crosby, 58, said. "At the time, there was no Saddlebrook in the area or any other place for people to learn."
One of Crosby's early students was an 8-year-old named Jim Courier. With baseball backgrounds as a common denominator, their relationship was a good one.
"His backhand was unique and I couldn't get him to change," Crosby said. "In baseball, he was a left-handed hitter and that's the stance he took in tennis."
Courier, 30, did all right with his unique technique and went on to win four Grand Slam titles in the 1990s and played 14 years as a professional.
When Crosby isn't coaching or teaching at Saint Leo (he's the only faculty member that does both), he offers lessons. Crosby also began providing a weeklong camp at Saint Leo last summer.
"Last summer was the first we offered it and we were pleased with the turnout," said Crosby, who coordinated the camp with Janet Wing. "We had 6- to 14-year-olds from Dade City, Brooksville, Zephyrhills and Land O'Lakes. This summer, we were full both weeks. Next summer, we may add another week."
The Summer Days camp emphasizes tennis and golf, but also includes other activities.
"Kids are so honest and bring you down to earth," Crosby said. "It's really refreshing to be with them. The community needed something like this and (the parents) especially like the idea of it being held on a college campus where they feel their kids are safe and supervised."
Crosby, who sees no reason to reduce his workload in the near future, is preparing for his 35th year coaching tennis at Saint Leo with hopes of improving the team's sixth-place finish in the Sunshine State Conference.
JUNIORS AT CLAY COURTS: Competition began Sunday at six sites around the country in the U.S. Tennis Association Super National Clay Court Championships. A 192-player draw in singles and 96 doubles teams are scheduled at each site.
Entered in the girls 18-and-under competition in Memphis, Tenn., are area players Jennifer Dent and Kelly Nelson. At the 16-and-under girls in Virginia Beach, Va., are Stacia Lutz, Brianna Williams and Miranda Gutierrez. Yumi Hasegawa is at the 14-and-under girls in Plantation.
Among the boys are Ryler DeHeart and R. J. Murray in the 18s in Louisville, Ky., and Sukhwa Young, Patrick Gleason, Timothy Neilly and Konstantin Lazarov in the 16s in Rockville, Md.
Young, the reigning Easter Bowl 16 champion, is the No. 2 seed and Fonseca, Florida's 16 singles champion and a finalist in the Bush Florida Open, is the No. 17 seed.
Competition continues through Sunday.
JUNIOR ZONE TEAMS: Following her competition in the clay court championships, Wesley Chapel's Hasegawa will travel to Nashville, Tenn., to participate in the USTA 12 Zone Team Championships. There, Hasegawa will join Oldsmar's Morgan Frank on a team representing Florida in round-robin competition against teams from USTA sections Southern, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and the Caribbean.
Also, Gutierrez and Becky Gordon will compete for team Florida in the USTA 16 Zone Team Championships in Winston-Salem, N.C., July 28-Aug. 2. Florida will challenge USTA sections Southern, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic.
MORE JUNIORS: Vivian Penz of Wesley Chapel won the girls 12-and-under singles title at the Summer Junior Classic at Royal Racquet Club in Clearwater this month. Tampa's Polina Nosik was the girls 16 finalist.
Earlier this month, Hasegawa advanced one round in the 128-player draw of the girls 12s in the USTA National Hard Court Championships in Alpharetta, Ga., and won a round in the consolation draw. Christina Liles played to the round of 32.
Jeff D'Adamo teamed with Brennan Boyajian of Fort Lauderdale to win three three-set matches to capture the boys 12 doubles national title held in Alameda, Calif.
ADULT TEAM COMPETITION: Friday, district champions begin competition in the USTA Florida Section Adult League West Regional Championships in Longboat Key. The west regional includes the Naples, Sarasota, Tampa and Ft. Myers areas, along with Pinellas and Pasco counties.
In all, four women's teams (East Lake Woodlands 3.0, Feather Sound 3.5, Treasure Island Rec 4.0 and McMullen Tennis Complex 4.5) and five men's (Countryside 3.0, the Vinoy 3.5, Seminole Lake Tennis Center 4.0 and Safety Harbor Spa 4.5 and 5.0) are entered.
Regional champions advance to the state championship Aug. 10-12 in Altamonte Springs.
COMING UP: Suncoast Tennis Singles meets Sunday at Seminole Lake Tennis Center. Call (813) 837-0711 for information.