The Bullet Hunter Jedi Master

Inside Montreal, journalist Louis-Philippe Messier mainly travels on the run, his office in his backpack, searching for fascinating subjects and people. He talks to everyone and cares about every walk of life in this urban history.

The tennis-loving crowd loves players, some more than others, but the fans’ true darlings are always those teens scrambling to catch balls as discreetly as possible in the sometimes unbearable heat.

Young ball catchers work hard and voluntarily, but they are “paid” for their efforts with a huge advantage: proximity to the action.

“The best place to watch a tennis match is right on the field with the players we give the ball to!” exclaims Nicholas Biode, who recruits, trains and supervises 96 “hunters” whose work is almost a sport in itself.

The person in charge of the ball catchers, Nicholas Baudet, explains to me the technique of catching balls in the net.

Chantal Poirier’s photo

The person in charge of the ball catchers, Nicholas Baudet, explains to me the technique of catching balls in the net.

When teams of six arrive on the field – two in the back lines and two in the net – 10,000 spectators on the field applaud them! Same thing when transferring to another team.

“It’s part of the show!” says Mr. Peaudi, whose tunes I find Obi-Wan Kenobi, when he spoke to me and showed me bullet hunter techniques. At only 40, he’s already in his 25th tournament.

He actually started as a ball catcher at the age of 15 in 1997, when the event was still named Du Maurier cigarette brand.

Her job as a physical education teacher in high school (and two months of accompanying vacation) facilitates her dedication as a volunteer each summer.

Desirable traits

Between 100 and 150 young candidates – about a third of them girls – knock on her door roughly every year in March. About 30 or 40 will be chosen.

“To be a good ball catcher you have to understand the game well, although you don’t have to play it yourself,” Lee explains.

Those who wish to return in subsequent years are accepted immediately.

“Only experience can make a fighter really efficient and comfortable in his job, and we use 17 or 18-year-old veterans for the big games.”

Head-to-toe hunters wear championship colors and feed.

“We are looking for a lot of agility and endurance because it is a very demanding job.”

In addition to the required physical dexterity, there are other considerations that complicate the lives of youngsters on the field.

There is no doubt that the name of the sponsor is hidden when photographing the camera.

It’s indisputable that the paparazzi’s viewpoint is obscured, too.

Forbidden to speak: we communicate by sober look and gestures.

“A good ball catcher knows how to make himself invisible and himself forgotten.”

As the radar detection system replaced the Seven Line Men, it took a lot of people out of the field, and Mr. Beaudet’s “Padawans” have valuable additional space.

“On hot days, in the strong sun in the field without shade, the temperature exceeds 40 degrees, and this requires our hunters to moisturize a lot,” he says.

During the declared days of sweltering heat, think of these stoic, erased youths. They are not lovers of the crowd in vain. That applause, they totally deserve it!



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