good. But all that changed when he hit a tennis ball for the first time
with his father's old racquet. It all started on Court No. 3 at
McCambridge Park. That court is nothing but a memory now, demolished for
the refurbishment project that is now the Burbank Tennis Center -- the
community tennis center that Starleaf runs with a goal of getting
racquets into the hands of kids who might never play the game.
The kind of kid Starleaf used to be.
"Before I became obsessed with tennis, I could have easily become a
juvenile delinquent or worse," Starleaf said. "Now it's my goal that the
tennis center serve Burbank as a place where kids and adults can discover
a game they can play their whole lives."
Since the Burbank Tennis Center opened on October 1, 1997, Burbank and
McCambridge Park have become a tennis hotbeds for beginners just learning
the game, to professionals like Andre Agassi.
After falling to a world ranking of No. 142 in 1997, Agassi road a win
in the Burbank Satellite Tournament in November of that year to become
the No. 1-ranked player in the world in 1999.
The fifth men's professional satellite tournament will be played at
the BTC this November, and Starleaf said the publicity for the pro events
has spread positive word of mouth about the center. So much so that
playing time for 12 courts is at a premium.
"Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that we would be
meeting 80 percent of the goals I set for the center just a few weeks
from celebrating our third anniversary," he said. "When I became the
independent contractor for the BTC, I set up a five-year plan with goals
and programs that I wanted to see put into place, and a lot of that has
"When I started playing tennis, there was nothing like the BTC
available, so I was left to practically beg people to play at McCambridge
or Burbank High. One of one of my goals is to make tennis available to
anyone in this community who wants to learn and play this game. It's the
least I can do for the people of Burbank."
Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog. Starleaf has always been proud to be