"I've actually walked over there several times to where it happened, and it's kind of like...I don't want to say calming, but it's kind of like an old projector comes on. I get teary-eyed," he says. "I never really talk to anybody about it happening over there."

As he's talking, another handball regular, one of the older guys who's been coaching L.D. on his game, walks up the path.

"I'm ready for some more information today," L.D. calls.

Jerry Jones, a.k.a. Junior, dreams of a career as a pro handballer.
Jennifer Silverberg
Jerry Jones, a.k.a. Junior, dreams of a career as a pro handballer.
"Not any of us would know each other if it wasn't for this blue ball," says Sandy Daniels, a car-dealership owner and the only regular female player.
Jennifer Silverberg
"Not any of us would know each other if it wasn't for this blue ball," says Sandy Daniels, a car-dealership owner and the only regular female player.

Location Info

Map

Forest Park

Highway 40 (I-64) & Hampton Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63110

Category: Parks and Outdoors

Region: St. Louis - Forest Park

Details

"Did I help you yesterday?" the man asks.

"Yes, you did, thank you very much," L.D. says.

Another regular approaches and says hello as he goes to drop off his gym bag. The rhythmic sounds of the handball popping against the backboard starts with the first game of the day.

"See how it is?" L.D. says turning back. "See how people just walk up and don't worry about who you are? They're just open."

Slideshow: Handball Brings Together Players of All Stripes in Forest Park


Jerry Jones — a.k.a. Junior — is frustrated again. He's fresh off an early-round loss in the handball club's first tournament of the season — a so-called "mad hatter" event that forces the very best players to team up with the worst in doubles matches. As one of the very top guys, Jones got paired with someone who didn't even know how to serve. Naturally, it was a blood bath.

"I don't play to lose," Jones says testily.

Fortunately, he has the Mike "Talayna" Memorial Singles Tournament to look forward to in late June, and after that, he's scraping together the entrance fees for outdoor tournaments in Las Vegas and Coney Island. He's hoping he'll be able to stack up to some of the pros, maybe make a name for himself.

In the meantime, he's working landscaping, going to school to learn heating and cooling installation, living with his girlfriend in a quiet, secluded apartment in Chesterfield (far away from the temptations of his old life) and playing as much as he can — all hours of the day and night between classes and work.

And even if his dreams of going pro are never fulfilled, the Forest Park courts have already provided something he's rarely ever had — a support network.

"I had a couple of them that call and say, 'Hey man, you want to work for me today?' There was one time period where I was laid off from my job," he recalls. "They all try to keep me in line and that's good... 'cause everybody needs help occasionally. It's real easy to get off track. It's real easy. You just gotta surround yourself around good people."

Slideshow: Handball Brings Together Players of All Stripes in Forest Park

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