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East County Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019 1 month ago

Practice time just dandy for Dick Vitale to watch his family

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The Hall of Famer talks his grandkids ahead of his annual college tennis tournament.
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Reporter

For all the love Dick Vitale has for his grandchildren, he seldom attends one of their athletic events.

It's not like he doesn't want to be there.

Vitale said he “can count on two hands” the number of their matches he has attended. He does not want to take the spotlight, and when the NCAA Basketball Hall of Fame announcer shows up to a sporting event, the local press has a tendency to make him the story.

He said that is not fair to his grandkids or the other competitors.

So the Lakewood Ranch resident has another strategy. He goes to their practices.

Vitale loves watching his grandkids — tennis players Sydney Sforzo and Ava, Jake and Connor Krug, plus lacrosse player Ryan Sforzo — work to get better. The Sforzos are the children of Terri Vitale and Chris Sforzo, and the Krugs are the children of Sherri Vitale and Thomas Krug. Dick Vitale said his grandchildren's willingness to put in the work fills him with joy. 

“They are dedicated," he said. "I love watching their development.”

In-person for matches or not, Vitale follows their careers closely, and those careers are beginning to take off. Sydney Sforzo, a senior at The Out-of-Door Academy, has committed to play tennis at the University of Notre Dame. 

Five-star recruits Connor and Jake Krug, academic juniors who attend virtual school, are also close to making their college decisions, with a final four of Notre Dame, Duke, Florida and Michigan.

Then there is Ava Krug. The five-star recruit is ranked fifth nationally among the 2024 class. In June, she reached the girls singles finals of two International Tennis Federation tournaments, levels J4 and J5, in Spain, and won the girls doubles division of the J4 Kingston tournament, held July 8-13 in Kingston, Jamaica, with partner Ava Cananzarite of Franklin Park, Pa. 

“People come up to me and tell me they cannot believe she’s only in eighth grade (because of her talent),” Vitale said. 

Vitale said they follow in the footsteps of their mothers, Sherri and Terri, who were also tennis players at Notre Dame while maintaining good grades and learning to be the best people they can be. 

In a few years, Vitale might be able to watch them without a fear of taking the spotlight — because there’s one tournament where he already has it anyway. The annual Lakewood Ranch Dick Vitale Intercollegiate Clay Court Classic draws many of the nation's top programs.

The 2019 event will take place Nov. 1-3 at Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club, and this year’s men’s bracket features all of the Krug twins’ final four schools, plus big programs like Florida State and Louisville. The women’s bracket will not feature Notre Dame yet, but will feature former The Out-of-Door Academy star Maria Ross and her Boston College teammates. 

Like always, the event is free to attend, but donations to The V Foundation for Cancer Research are accepted at the tournament, and money from advertiser banners goes toward the charity as well. 

Vitale said his goal is to raise $5 million from now through his annual gala in May 2020. It would not be possible, he said, without the help of tournament directors Chris Marquez and Paul Lederman, and Vitale’s friend, Larry Wade, who helps with selling the tournament’s ad banners. They are all “primetime performers,” Vitale said, and they work in service of the same goal. 

“Every year, we want to provide great tennis for the fans while raising money for kids,” Vitale said. “This year is no different.”

I’m the sports reporter for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. I was born and raised in Olney, MD. My biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. My strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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