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The Men in the Frontcourt
The Fastest Column in the World
by Todd Sorensen

The most agile athletes in the world are constantly dodg-ing 150 mile-per-hour fastballs in an ancient sport known as Jai-Alai. Necessity dictates the lightning like quick-ness that rushes through their blood. There is no time for thought, no room for error for the brave men thatstrap on the cesta and march into the serve box to make theirliving. Being in the line of fire is a routine occurrence for theJai-Alai frontcourter.

While speed definitely helps at this position, anticipation and fast reflexes are the tools that make a frontman feel at home. You can be a world-class sprinter, and you still have no chance to chase down the pelota. A great frontcourter will know his opponent and where the ball will be thrown before it gets there. He’ll have the reflexes of a cat, always on the alert. And much like a skilled hunter, the frontman must always be ready to attack, to take an opponents mistake and turn it into points. To do so he must have a variety of kill shots, and the nerve to throw them with the utmost precision. There are but a few masters of this position in the world at any given time. Learning all the tricks of the trade can take a lifetime. But, this is one position where you don’t have to be a master of everything to be effective.

Most frontmen have distinct styles and stick to it. Most have shots they will throw consistently, and they’ll have at least a shot or two that you’ll probably rarely, if ever, see them attempt. The handicapper should look for consistency. A frontman that isn’t always in good position is going to miss out on too many opportunities. A solid front will always be steady and sure of his moves. Also, look for a good head on those shoulders. One mistake in Jai-Alai and you might just be out of the money, literally.

Here are my top five frontcourters playing in the US today, in no particular order:

Arriaga — Dania’s top star will attack with forehand throws persistently. He takes over points by keeping opposing players in bad position. A purebred athlete, he’s known for making the spectacular possible.

Arregui — This 5-Time frontcourt champion at Dania is the most prolific shot-maker in the world today. The master of the remate (a backhand two-walled throw), he will attack at every opportunity. He loves the quick point.

Aperri — Orlando’s own was the last national champion. A right-sided player he loves to throw the forehand rebote with heat. He loves to use placement and throws a mean cortada (ball thrown low and hard to the inside).

Goicoechea — Young and strong he may be the best singles player in the world today. He can catch the pelota with the best of them, and is known for his powerful cortada throw.

Rekalde — A student of the game, he is an all-around master of the sport. The Miami front can beat you in so many ways. Power, placement, and catching, he has it all.

This story was first published in the October - November 2002 issue of Gambling Times Magazine.

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