Andy Roddick? I owe that dude a beer.

[lightbox link=”” thumb=”×300.png” width=”175″ align=”left” title=”A yearbook shot. Yeah, I played…and had hair.” frame=”true” icon=”image” caption=”A yearbook shot. Yeah, I played…and had hair.”]

Recently, Andy Roddick was drafted as the Springfield Lasers’ marquee player for the upcoming World Team Tennis season. Count me among the stoked. I owe that dude a beer. Hell, if you’re a fan of American tennis, we ALL owe the guy a beer.

Honestly, I was never a huge tennis fan. I always felt like tennis was a sport to PLAY, not watch. Thankfully millions of people around the world disagree.

Growing up, I’d occasionally watch an Edberg, Lendl, Connors or McEnroe Final – mostly because it was better than studying for Monday’s algebra test. Even then, I could only handle one set a sitting. Watching just reminded me that I’d rather be on the tennis court than stuck in my room pretending to understand what x’s and y’s equal.

By my 20’s, tennis was completely off the radar. I would absorb enough sports to hear about Pete’s conquests or see Andre sell cameras, but I honestly couldn’t tell you which Slams were played on clay, grass or…asphalt.

Then…at 28-years-old, like a gift from a deranged Smurf, tennis blew up in my face: Someone paid me to watch.

A new career began when I was hired to announce a Fed Cup Tie in Springfield, MO. From there, it was off to Flushing. In my first U.S. Open as the announcer, I was uniquely spoiled. Two weeks of tennis led to a storybook final featuring THE American tennis icons of the past decade, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. That night, Pete won his 14th and last Grand Slam title. The night before, Serena won her second U.S. Open title over sister Venus. New York was out of its mind! Each final was a like a rock concert – electric, epic, thrilling – and I was lucky enough to be the stadium voice behind the show. I was hooked!

Enter Andy Roddick…the brash new face of American tennis.

Over the next ten years, I would spend more time with Andy Roddick than any other professional tennis player – without actually spending any time with him.

It was my quivering voice in Arthur Ashe Stadium that announced the unimaginable in ’03 when Andy won the U.S. Open title. We stood on the same court during the ’04 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. First hand, I’ve seen him dominate; I’ve seen him defeat himself. In ’07, I was on the mic in Portland, Oregon for one of his proudest achievements – winning the Davis Cup for the United States.

…And I was there last September for his final match on Arthur Ashe Stadium, before his retirement from the game…

Event after event, Open upon Open, I could always count on belting-out Roddick’s pre-match bio to a packed stadium full of adoring fans: “…a native of Nebraska, now living in Austin, Texas – Please welcome, 2003 U.S. Open Champion: Andy Roddick!”

Andy’s mere presence on the court made our sport production better. He brought the fans. The fans brought the atmosphere. The atmosphere was our playground. It was our responsibility to deliver UP to that atmosphere and exceed expectation…out of respect and as fans ourselves. Andy always delivered.

For ten years, I’ve been lucky enough to work, grow and evolve professionally through tennis, and Andy Roddick has been a huge part of that. Though the truth is, we’ve never met. The guy couldn’t pick me out of a line up. I’ve always been the voice, hidden behind the microphone, simply working to add to the moment, the presentation – just playing my role.

Even so, I still owe the dude a beer.

Because here’s a fact: “I am able to earn a living doing what I do, because people like Andy Roddick earn a living…playing tennis.” Sincerely – Thanks, man.

And welcome to the Lasers in Springfield, where it all began. Well, for this Andy anyway. Now, let me get you that beer…