Jai Alai: Interview with Miguel Angel Amoros


Miguel Ángel Amorós went to the United States when he was still almost just a almost just a kid, and now lives in New Port with his wife and children. He admits that he still misses his home town in the basque country, and that he still goes there at least once a year to visit his basque family. During his career as a professional cesta punta player he has experienced a lot of things, some of which he will share with us in this interview.

What do you remember from the first times you held a cesta in your hands?
I started playing late. I went to a private school, and didn’t start to play seriously before I had finished there. When I was younger I used to play pelota mano, but later I came to choose cesta punta.

When did you make your debut?
I went to Reno (USA) in 1978, but one year earlier I had played some games in Soria and Logroño. The games were part of a championship which lasted a couple of days, and we were about six or seven players from Markina who participated.

How did you get the opportunity to go to Reno?
I got the oportunity through Izagirre from Berriatua. I signed up for two years, but the owner of West Palm Beach went to watch us play, and I managed to get a contract from him as well. I was in Reno for nine months, and then I competed in West Palm Beach during the winters and in New Port during the summers. I went on like that until 1986, when I went to West Palm Beach to play all year round, but then came the strike.

During that time it was necessary to get a normal job.
During the strike I worked with construction, and then after nine months I went to New Port with my wife. The Frontons belonged to the same company, so the strike went on there too. I starten working for Benchmark, and still today I worke there.

But then you went back to playing again.
The strike was over in 1991, and we from West Palm Beach had contracts for three years. So I left my job and went back to playing until November 1993. I could have kept on for four more months in Ft Pierce or Hartford, but I chose to go back to the north and they accepted me at my old job again.

What does your work consist of now?
I’m in charge of the generators, elevator and other aspects like security and maintainance of a couple of buildings. The compalny also has some buses and other vehicles that need to be maintained and kept in shape. In total we has 43 different buildings and 5000 employees throughout Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachussets, New Hampshire and Vermont.

What went through your head when they told you you were going to America?
I couldn’t believe it. My first contracts, the ones in Reno and West Palm Beach, I signed in Markina. I had already earlier told my parents that my dream was to go to America, and that it was money spent in the wrong way to pay for studies. So I started to work instead.

What was your first impressoin of the United States?
The first thing we saw when we arrived in New York was a limousine with four doors. We started counting our steps to see how long it was.

Was it hard to travel that far to live in another place?
No, because the fronton was owned by Metro Goldwin Mayer, and they had more than 400 apartments in the same block. All the players and the other staff lived there, and it was like a small community and we spent a lot of time together.

Did you meet your wife in America?
She worked in the fronton in New Port, and we got to know each other in 1983. It was during the period that Felix payed there. I spent a lot of time together with hin and Goitia as well.

Which is your favourite city in the USA?
Reno, but the most beautiful place is Lake Tahoe, which is the deepest lake in the country and is situated on the boarder between Nevada and California. It was where they shot the serie Bonanza, and everything is constructed with great respect for the nature there. Apart from that I off course like New Port very much. It’s a beautiful city. Nicholas Cage has a house there, and the Kennedys used to spend the summers there.

Would you say your kids are americans?
Yes. The oldest one was born in West Palm Beach and the second and the third in New Port. They have been eight or nine times in the basque country, and they love it there. With the smallest one I use to play cesta punta against a wall, and when we got to Markina, the first thing he wanted to do was to play cesta there.

Have they inherited you passion for Athletic Bilbao?
My oldest son follows everything that happens around Athletic, and the youngest girl already play soccer tournaments. She is already 14 years old, and one time she went to New England to watch the Galaxys, and took a photo of her and David Beckham.

Why did you decide to stay in New Port? Because of the family. I miss the basque country much, and my brothers and my mother as well. But when I come to Markina I also miss my family en New Port much.

Which period was your best in the world of cesta punta?
The one in West Palm Beach. There were days when well over a million dollars were spent on betting on the players, and the NJAF also had much success. The fronton was full, and now it makes me very sad to see the state of the game.

During those days you guys were famous.
I remember that you had to be 21 to enter the discoteques. But if you were a Jai Alai player, you didn’t even have to stand in line.

What was the reason for the change that occured in the popularity?
The scratch lottery gave jai alai tough competition because it is much faster; and the strike came at a bad time. You also have to keep in mind that the slot machines don’t demand salary, and don’t get ill or injured, and they also don’t want ay vacation or anything. If they break, you just take it away and replace it with another one.

Is there any way to bring the game back?
If there would have been one, more frontons would already have opened. I imagine that the first thing would be, like in any other business, to invest a lot of money and then start getting some propaganda out to the public.

Source: Translated from Master Jai

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