When I'm watching tennis matches, sometimes I feel kind of badly for the ball boys (I guess we should start calling them ball people?). All that running back and forth, trying not to be a nuisance, having better hand-eye coordination than I could ever dream of having. Though the views they have of the match might be worth the sweat. But there's one ball boy in particular at the US Open who's become quite an inspiration: Ryan McIntosh, a 23-year-old Army veteran from Texas.
What makes Ryan stand out from the other ball boys/people? He's running around on that court on one leg.
The story of this Colorado high school athlete will certainly make you count all your blessings -- and perhaps become intrigued enough to check him out at his next US Open match.
The New York Daily News described what happened to him: While walking not far from Kandahar in Afghanistan, McIntosh lifted up his right foot and then put it down on top of a land mine. The blast launched him 10 feet in the air. He landed in a ditch and then saw part of his foot was gone. Also, he later found out that 40 pounds of homemade explosives were beneath the mine ... but they never detonated.
Wow. What a brave guy, and how especially blessed he is that he is still here today. Unfortunately though, his leg had to be amputated below the knee. But, instead of wallowing and feeling sorry for himself, he began rehabbing, inspired by thoughts of his wife and his yet-unborn son.
In May, through the United States Tennis Association's Military Outreach program, he tried out for a ball person's role and deservedly landed the spot. "They asked me, 'Can you throw a tennis ball?'" McIntosh said. "I said, 'I’ve thrown grenades, so I think I can handle a tennis ball.'" I think they got the message there.
He's still healing both mentally and physically -- he described that the fireworks at the US Open were "gun-wrenching" -- and though he's making only $7.75 an hour as a ball person, I'm really hoping sponsors will pay attention as he tries out for the Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Even though he's lost his leg, it's truly inspiring to see him take advantage of every opportunity he possibly can. Go Ryan!
Here's more on this amazing Army veteran:
Have you seen Ryan during the US Open? Are you going to watch out for him now?
Image via ESPN/YouTube