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Ruben Retires amongst Racquwetworld Contest Winners
An annual tradition took place last week...the trek to the US Open Racquetball Championships. This is the third year in a row they were held in Minneapolis, MN. Racquetworld.com added a little extra excitement by running a 9 month contest for our customers (and by contest rules, anyone who signed up that was a non-customer...but come on...really).
Ruben Gonzalez was seeded 14th in the draw. While the goal of finishing in the top 10 at age 60 was missed...it wasn’t missed by much. In the round of 32, Ruben played a young up-and-comer named Daniel De La Rosa. The match was tight and Ruben was down 2 games to 1 with a score of 10-10 in the fourth. The match was teetering on every rally...and then every shot. Then it happened...Ruben went down. A nagging hamstring injury popped. After fifteen minutes, it was apparent that Ruben couldn’t continue. However, holding true to his nature, he was not one to ever forfeit. He was helped onto the court, where the young man served two remaining serves to finish the match. Ruben walked off the court and into official professional racquetball retirement. This was not the way Ruben would have scripted his last match but it was not without its own share of drama.
Now my drama was about to begin. Our retirement dinner party for Ruben was the next night. I was contacting the Racquetworld.com winners so everyone would be on the same page and I get a call that the ambulance was taking Ruben to the hospital. After a year of planning, a twenty second rally could put our entire night in jeopardy. We had winners from as far away as Georgia waiting to meet Ruben for the first time. You can see from the picture, we had a very intimate evening, that everyone truly enjoyed. We told Ruben Gonzalez stories, we told Racquetworld.com stories, we ate and we drank. Everyone came away from the evening a little in awe. Some of the winners said it was their most memorial event in their racquetball lives...Ruben and I came away with awe at that.
To cap off the evening we gave all the winners a special fleece inscribed with details of the event and another special secret treat was won by two members of the table which everyone agreed not to disclose.
This event worked out so well that we will be doing another dinner contest in the future. So please watch for your chance to win a racquetball experience of a lifetime soon.
I like to thank all the people who attended the dinner. Also a special thanks to Doug Ganim for helping us pull off the evening with scheduling requests and transportation. And finally, I’d like to thank Ruben for giving thirty plus years of his life to the sport we all love so much!
Many of you have asked will we ever see Ruben again...some because you honestly want to see him and other because you can’t wait for him to be gone so you can finally win a 50+ - 60+ age division. While Ruben is retiring from playing Professional IRT racquetball you can still find him attending amateur events around the country, promoting Ektelon, winning age titles, and having fun! Don’t be afraid to go up to him and tell him you read about him on Racquetworld.com...you’ll get a free autograph out of him...but then again you’ll get one of those anyway.
Thanks for sticking through this Ruben series of articles all your support has meant a lot to him through the years. Look for his namesake racquets the RG Toron and RG Toron Lite...they make great Xmas gifts!
Born July 22, 1952 in Spanish Harlem, New York, Ruben Gonzalez turned pro in 1975. At age 37 he became the oldest player to finish #1 on the men’s tour, oldest player to win the Pro Nationals, and was inducted into the USAR Hall of Fame in 2000. Gonzalez is also the oldest athlete to ever earn an appointment to the US National Team with numerous National Doubles titles to his name. He was named Geezer Jock player of the year in 2008.
Top 10 x 60 is Ruben’s goal. With the help of this newly designed frame, Ruben's Last Stand should find him ranked in the top 10 on the IRT Tour right after his 60th birthday...this is going to be one hell of a challenge!
To accomplish this goal Ruben will be using the new EXO3 RG Toron Racquet. Our Racquetworld staff has been very involved in the process of developing this frame. This new teardrop shape is what Ektelon fans have been missing for years and will be the most powerful Ektelon racquet you’ve ever hit with.
Ruben Gonzalez, "The Legend of Racquetball" kicked off his Last Stand Tour in September at the first IRT Tier 1 event of the year in Kansas City. Ruben has committed to play the IRT full time this season in quest of finishing in the top 10 when he retires at the US Open next year at the age of 60 years old. This is an incredible commitment on Ruben's part and a monumental task based on his age and the fact that Ruben hasn't played regularly on tour for many years which currently has him ranked #39 on the charts . Although his first step back on to the pro tour in Kansas City resulted in a first round loss, Ruben reported that it really felt good to get back out there and he was pleased with the way he felt on court.
In addition to what Ruben competing on the Pro tour, the launch of his much anticipated EXO3 RG Toron LE racquet was unveiled at the Ektelon booth at the U.S. Open last year. Ruben played with this striking all chrome painted Limited Edition racquet during the event which follows the same frame specifications as the current RG Toron and includes a special headcover featuring silhouette images of Ruben. The LE (Limited Edition) racquet looks great on court and it's a definite "must have" collectors item as well. The LE racquets will be in limited supply and available only from authorized Ektelon Dealers starting in early November 2011. In addition, a Special Edition signature Club Bag with several special upgraded features was introduced in January 2012 as well.
True legend of racquetball signs lucrative deal and announces Farewell Tour and Signature Product Line plan
Bordentown, NJ – Ektelon announced today that Ruben Gonzalez, the former #1 player in the world and Hall of Fame inductee, has signed a legendary, multi-year endorsement deal to finish his career in professional racquetball in unprecedented fashion. The agreement includes a signature series of products starting with a new racquet called the EXO3 RG Toron, which will be launched at the 2011 Ektelon Nationals to be held in Fullerton, California during May 25th - 29th of this year.
Gonzalez, who signed with Ektelon originally in 1976, has not only agreed to endorse Ektelon products for the next five years but he will be instrumental in designing and promoting a signature series of products including; racquets, gloves and bags during this time period. In addition, Gonzalez has begun a strict training regime and has charted out a plan to play on the Men’s IRT professional tour and finish his career at the 2012 US Open ranked in the top 10 at the age of 60 years old. Vice President of Ektelon, Scott Winters who has known Gonzalez almost his entire career says –“ No other racquetball endorsement deal has ever been signed at this level with a legendary player like Gonzalez. When Ruben came to us with the idea of finishing off his amazing career with Ektelon on such a historic note combined with his interest in developing a signature series of products to capitalize on his past and future success and his popularity in the game, it was a no-brainer for us and we jumped at the opportunity. We immediately put a team together with Ruben to design the perfect racquet to help him accomplish his goals. Our vision was to take his current frame, the O3 RG and combine it with the racquet he played with when he was the #1 player in the world, the Ektelon Toron. The Toron was one of the most successful racquets ever launched in the sport, as the first oversized graphite racquet. This racquet took power to a whole new level and revolutionized the sport said Winters. Therefore, the new EXO3 RG Toron will feature a new modified teardrop head shape and will be built for maximum power with the highest power level of any Ektelon racquet ever produced at 4200. However, Winters explains that power wasn’t the only motivation behind the design of this frame, players today are looking for effortless power with maximum comfort and control. Therefore, even though the frame is incredibly stiff allowing for effortless power, soft plastic inserts are offered in the O ports of the frame to dampen vibration and the Power Ring 8 string pattern puts players in total control of hitting precision shots anywhere on the court. The cosmetics tie-back to the original Toron with an “EXO3 look” and it will be the only racquet offered in the Ektelon performance racquet line-up with a special designed headcover”.
“I’m extremely happy to close out my career with Ektelon, the company I have been with since I started playing the sport” said Gonzalez. “Ektelon has been part of my family for the past 35 years and I can’t imagine playing racquetball without them in my corner. Signing this deal with Ektelon is the icing on the cake for my career. I am extremely excited about my new EXO3 RG Toron racquet and so thankful Ektelon allowed me to be involved in making this racquet and supporting my plans to wrap up my career on tour. I would also like to thank all of my friends, family, and fans for joining me on my Farewell Tour. Gonzalez went on to say that, the new EXO3 RG Toron racquet is incredible and I know it will help me accomplish my goals to finish my career in professional racquetball next year at the highest level possible. It’s going to be important for me to put pressure on my younger opponents on tour and be able to end the rallies quickly by hitting consistent winners. This is the best racquet I have ever had for hitting drives serves which will give me more offensive opportunities and the effortless power I get on court will enable me to hang with any player on tour. However, even though the power is there, my touch game and confidence to kill the ball during the rally has never been higher while using this racquet. The feel is so soft as well that I don’t feel any frame shock which helps my arm recover after matches quicker than ever before.”
Ektelon Promotions Manager, Aimee Ruiz, a seven time Open National Doubles Champion and current US Team Member explains that “Ruben has always been a class act and is the most recognizable player in racquetball. Known also as one of the best age group players to ever play the game, players of all ages have incredible respect for him. Not only has he won numerous tournaments, and performance awards, but he has also received several sportsmanship awards throughout his career. He is definitely someone every player on my team looks up to. In fact Ektelon’s fastest rising star and #9 ranked player on the IRT Tour at the age of 21 years old, Jose Rojas says it will be great having Ruben back playing the tour. I look forward to seeing what “Rubes” can do on the court next season and of course I will be watching and will try to learn as much as possible from him. I have already tried his Toron racquet and I have to say that I really like it, which is tough to say since I love the EXO3 Attack I am currently using. I may have to switch to his racquet just so I can make sure to stay one step ahead of him next season.” Ruiz goes on to say that she is in the process of planning an exciting multifaceted marketing program around Ruben’s Farewell Tour, which will include print advertising, online and social marketing, grassroots efforts and more. “I can’t wait for us to unveil the entire and see Ruben in action at the Ektelon Nationals in May!”