jai alai

  Aspiring amateurplayers can easily learn to play in the beginner level and then move up

Jai Alai comes in different flavors, you don’t have to, and certainly the fronton won't let you start out with a hard ball. There are three levels of play and you need to be proficient at one before you advance to the next level, and in fact many people opt not to advance and find one ofthe first levels so much fun they stick with it. All levels have their own advantages, disadvantages and different characteristics, which are incurred due to the behavior of the different balls. The levels are as follows:

Rubber ball- Helmets are not required and is played with a rubber ball similar to the softer rubber balls sold at toy stores to play baseball, it is bouncy and rather soft. This is the “entry level” of jai alai. It is played in a smaller court, which is approximately 75 X 20 feet, and you can safely learn the basics such as throwing, catching, serving and rebote, as well as the rules of the game. In my opinion, you should learn to at least throw and catch by practicing with a tennis ball against any wall, before you attempt to go in the court, it would be much more fun and you don’t get discouraged or timid among other people who already know how. Many players will stay at this level because is safe, you don’t need to buy a helmet,  cestas don’t break with the rubber ball and it is not only fun to play, but also very good exercise.

Plastic ball- it is played on a slightly larger fronton than rubber ball, approximately 70 X20 feet, with a harder ball than the rubber ball. It is made out of plastic, and some of the newer balls are made out of a PVC like material. Helmets are required because even though the ball is not very hard and dense as the hardball, it can cause substantial head injury. Here is where you polish your skills before going to hardball; the ball behaves a lot more like the hardball than the rubber ball does. Most people play this for years before going to the hard ball and even just stay playing plastic ball, which provides a great deal of exercise and lots of fun. There are some advantages to this level of play, most players are already skilled, having learned on the rubber ball court, the volleys last longer than in hardball, the exercise level is greater than in any of the other two levels, the cestas last longer, the fun factor is high especiallywith some of the newer pvc-like balls which even sound almost like a hardball, and the danger level is relatively low. The disadvantage is that…well…. It just ain’t hardball, but if you never played hardball you won’t mind staying at that level of play. In fact, I would say the majority of players would stay at this level, even trying hardball and just coming back to plastic. Definitely better volley and greater exercise than hardball, unless you get good at hardball and play with very good players who can sustain volleys and make the shots.

Hard ball- What a feeling! But be warned- Helmets are definitely required! Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, there is no court available to the amateurs, since the one at North Miami, where I played over 10 years, closed several  years ago, leaving only the plastic and rubber ball courts open, and none of the professional frontons are available for amateurs, but anyways, I will reference my thoughts and experiences on the hardball court. The professional hard ball courts do not have a specific set size, just like baseball fields differ in measurements, but most measure 165-180 feet long, and I’m not sure about the width and height, the amateur court at North Miami was a small one, about 140 feet long and about 30 feet wide. The ball is really hard; roughly three quarters the size of a baseball and a lively bounce, such as a golf ball.

comparison of jai alai ball
The  advantage  of  hardball  is  the  adrenalyn  rush  and  awesome  fun,  the  cracking  sound  of  the  ball  and  the  speed  are  intoxicating,  and  the  time  in  the  court  is  usually  intense  and  focused,  all  eyes  are  on  the  ball  at  all  times  due  to  the  dangerous  nature  of  the  sport.  The  disadvantages  are  that  volleys  are  not  sustained  as  in  plastic  ball,  if  you  don’t  play  with  good  experienced  players  it  usually  becomes  a  serve  --->  return  --->  ”point  over”  kind  of  play,  the  court  is  big  and  the  less  experienced  players  just  can’t  catch  well  or  make  the  shots,  but  there  are  ways  around  it,  such  as  play  in  leagues  with  good  players,  that’s  when  jai  alai  is  the  most  fun,  the  great  plays  and  long  volleys  become  the  norm.  Another  disadvantage  is  that  the  cestas  need  constant  repair  from  the  abuse  of  the  hardball,  and  that  could  be  rather  costly.

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