Meet the U.S. Open's Fast-Footed Ball Boys and Girls

by Jenna Wolfe and Matthew Vann /  / Updated 

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QUEENS, N.Y. — Meet the "ball persons."

They’re a familiar sight on the court at the U.S. Open: the fast-footed sprinters who scramble to fetch the balls that go awry.

And at the prestigious Grand Slam tournament this month, these men and women with lightning reflexes pounce at a moment's notice. The Open hires 250 of these grown-up ball boys and girls, and each one's chief concern is simple: keeping an eye on the ball.

Meanwhile, being in front of thousands of cheering spectators is pretty cool, too.

"The first time in Ashe Stadium you look up and you see all the people and you go into shock," said Justin Holmes.

This adrenaline rush for the ball persons on the court is very real — even for some of New York's finest.

Image: TEN-US OPEN- CILIC-DJOKOVIC
Ball persons wait for the start of the Novak Djokovic-Marin Cilic match during their 2015 U.S. Open Men's Singles semifinals at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sept. 11, 2015, in New York.TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP - Getty Images

But being a ball person at the U.S Open means more than just running around — they’re often responsible for keeping the players happy. That could be anything from giving a player a towel, the occasional snack or handing over a ball.

While most famous tennis tournaments take ball persons that are relatively young, the U.S. Open makes spots available to people of various ages.

Some 350 to 400 people tried out in June for 80 available spots.

So what does it take to make the cut?

"First of all, you should know tennis," said Cathy Delaney, who helps to run the program. "You have to know the score and when to throw the ball and when not to throw the ball."

And, once in, you're part of an elite team — even if it's the players who remain in the spotlight.

"Most of the players are very, very respectful and nice to you because they know you work really hard," said ball person Micaela Pirsco. "And they're all family."

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