Dover tennis phenom is a smash Down Under. Plus, six (former) Blue Rocks on a roll, how to win a kite-flying contest, a Delawarean dances for her Soul, and are we getting malled to death?
photograph by Tom Nutter
With a stellar performance at the Australian Open, tennis phenom Madison Brengle could be swingin’ on a star.
Dover’s Madison Brengle became an instant celebrity when she volleyed her way to the junior finals of the Australian Open in January. So now what?
“All this attention is really cool, but I’m nowhere near ready to be Maria Sharapova-famous,” says Brengle, a home-schooled 16-year-old. “I need to improve my footwork and backhand, fine tune my serve and get better at the net.”
With a long future ahead, Brengle could go the Chris Evert route, focusing on her game
and making millions well into middle age. The Anna Kournikova model would require her to temporarily abandon the racquet for the celebrity life. At the moment, Brengle is trying to choose between college and a professional career.
And based on Brengle’s solid work ethic, she won’t likely take the young, famous, rich superstar route and its accompanying cycle of booze, boyfriends and rehab.
“There’s a difference between actresses and tennis players,” says Brengle’s mother and coach, Gaby. “Tennis players have to focus on what they eat, how much they sleep. They can’t be out partying. Their bodies do the performing.”
In July 2005 Brengle won the USTA Women’s Satellite Tour of Baltimore, earning herself USTA Pro Circuit Player of the Week status as a 15-year old. Last year she represented the United States at the LTA International Junior Championships and the Wimbledon Junior Championships, both in England.
In Australia, Brengle beat No.3 seed Ksenia Milevskaya of Belarus in the junior semifinals, forcing Russia’s fearsome Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the No. 1 seed, into two tiebreakers.
“I was actually a little shocked,” says Brengle. “Then once the reality set in, I said, ‘OK, time to get to work.’”
Next for the 26th-ranked girls junior in the world: the Junior Slams. And then?
“I want to win the U.S. Open,” Brengle says. “It’s in the States, my home territory. That would be the best thing ever.” —Maria Hess
In honor of Opening Day, we tracked down a few
Blue Rocks of yore. Where are they now? Read on.
Johnny Damon (1994) Yes, it’s true—the Fabio of the New York Yankees called Delaware his home for a season. Since then he has played with the Oakland Athletics, the Boston Red Sox and now the Yankees. Twice he was named an All-Star and, in 2004, he won the World Series with Boston. Despite all the honors, he just might be best known for his long locks and a smile that could put the power company out of business. Position: Center field Clubs: Kansas City Royals, Athletics, Red Sox, Yankees Most Likely To: Send female hearts aflutter
Carlos Beltran (1997-98, 2000) This top-dollar earner returned to the Rocks after an injury kept him off of MLB turf. During his career he has been named the 1999 American League Rookie of the Year and was selected as an All-Star in 2004, 2005 and 2006. He helped both the Houston Astros and the New York Mets, in 2004 and 2006 respectively, reach the post-season. In 2004 Beltran signed a seven-year contract with the Mets for $119 million. At the time, it was the seventh-largest contract in baseball history. Position: Center field Clubs: Kansas City Royals, Astros, Mets Most Likely To: Pull a Scrooge McDuck by backstroking in piles of cash
Mike Sweeney (1995) This five-time All-Star has spent his entire 12-year career with the Kansas City Royals. His No. 33 jersey was retired by the Blue Rocks in 2004. In his spare time Mike and his wife, Shara, run a Christian-based youth ministry and baseball camp. Position: First base, designated hitter Clubs: Royals Most Likely To: Pitch the Bible instead of a baseball
Jon Lieber (1993) If you’re looking for a player with a shelf life longer than Spam, Lieber is your man. In 1993, the Rocks’ inaugural season, the pitcher helped the team earn its first victory with a 9-2 win over Winston-Salem. He’s been busy ever since. During an impressive career that has already spanned 12 seasons, Lieber has seen one baseball strike, one serious injury, four new uniforms and 126 wins. Position: Pitcher Clubs: Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies Most Likely To: Outlive a cockroach in the event of nuclear disaster
Sal Fasano (1994-95) This whiskered catcher has nine seasons of MLB experience, splitting the most recent between the Phillies and the Yankees. Position: Catcher Clubs: Kansas City Royals, Athletics, Colorado Rockies, Anaheim Angels, Baltimore Orioles, Phillies and Yankees Most Likely To: Oil his ’stache
Anibal Sanchez (2005) This pitcher is the Blue Rocks’ most recent success story. Sanchez played for the team just two seasons ago. Since then he’s left more than a few batters swinging in the breeze. Last year he led the Florida Marlins to a 2-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks by throwing the first no-hitter since 2004. Position: Pitcher Clubs: Red Sox, Marlins Most Likely To: End a homerun race faster than a positive drug test.
photography by Keith Mosher
Hoping to achieve new heights at the Great Delaware Kite Festival? A resident expert is happy to show how.
Mark Blatell’s aerial ballet requires the dexterity of a master puppeteer and the footwork of Savion Glover.
His three-minute stunt kite routine is just one of the reasons to visit the Great Delaware Kite Festival on Good Friday. Blatell’s prowess has landed him dozens of medallions during the past 20 years, including the Eugene Bookhammer Award in 2000 as the festival’s best overall kite flier.
“I try to compete in as many categories as I feel comfortable in,” says the 50-year-old Milton resident. “And then I’ll try the ones I’m not comfortable with, too.”
Kite flying can be as simple or complex as one wants to make it. Contests include novices and experts of all ages. Kites range in price from a two-dollar Gayla to hundreds for a top-of-the-liner. “Each kite has its own nuances,” says Blatell. His collection includes 50 high-fliers.
When winds approach 20 mph, Blatell turns to his vented Tramontana, but for most contests, he looks up to the Prism Fanatic. “It’s like driving a Miata,” he says. “It’s the sports car of kites.” As far as string, it starts and ends with Spectra.
For the past seven years, Blatell has honed his skills while working at Rehoboth Toy & Kite in Rehoboth Beach. His advice:
• “Always know your wind direction and speed,” he says. “Put the wind to your back. If you don’t have the right speed, the kite won’t go up.”
• Gauge the wind: “You can guesstimate the wind by the trees, what the clouds are doing, by stuff blowing down the beach.”
• Use the wind: “You have to maneuver the kite across your wind window to get the proper pressure on your kite to get it to do what you want it to do.”
• Practice, practice, practice: “A lot of it is muscle memory. What you do depends on the type of kite and wind conditions.”
• Wear gloves: “When I was young and inexperienced, I was flying a dual-line kite and wrapped the line around my finger. A strong gust jerked the kite. The line went down to the bone. It doesn’t slice. It plows.”
The Great Delaware Kite Festival is April 6 at Cape Henlopen State Park. The next day, see Blatell pull some strings during the Rehoboth Toy & Kite Fun Fly in Rehoboth Beach. For more, call 645-8073 or visit leweschamber.com. —Drew Ostroski