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Jai-Alai in Tijuana

Jai-Alai Fronton - Tijuana

Avenida Revolucion is the most visited part of the city by tourists. Some come to shop 'bargains' that are more expensive than in the rest of the Mexico, but for some people it is the best and easiest way to get some handmade one of a kind items. It's full of bars, restaurants, discos, table dances and the like, and usually nights and weekends are very crowded. On the corner of Ave. Revolución and 8th Street you can find a building named 'Jai Alai', where you can see one of the fastest sports called 'Pelota Vasca' or Jai-Alai. This is one of the landmark buildings of this part of Tijuana.

A handball-like game of Spanish Basque origin. It is also called pelota. Jai alai is played on a three-walled court with a hard rubber ball that must be hurled against the front wall with the cesta, a wicker basket attached to the player's arm. The court is about 175 ft (53 m) long, 40 ft (12.2 m) wide, and 40 ft (12.2 m) high. Spectators sit behind a wire fence or plexiglass wall on the fourth side. To their right is the front wall, or frontis. The object is to hurl the ball against the front wall in such a way that it cannot be returned. The ball may hit the side or rear wall, but not the spectator wall, before striking the frontis. The ball, which reaches speeds of 150 mph (240 kph), is caught in the cesta and thrown in a continuous motion. Jai alai is played as either singles or doubles with scoring similar to that of court handball. Betting on games is popular; pari-mutuel wagering is legal in a few U.S., and is legal in Tijuana. Jai alai is a popular in parts of Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America, and the Philippines.

Jai-Alai is a very distinctive sport which requires its own special equipment. The cesta, a Spanish word for basket, is the long, curved basket a player uses to catch and throw the pelota and is hand-woven specifically for each individual player. The wicker basket is made from reeds found exclusively in the Pyrenees Mountain and the frame is made of steam bent Chestnut. The pelota is the hardest ball of any sport. It is roughly 3/4 the size of a baseball and is harder than a rock. The core consists of Brazilian virgin de pola rubber, is layered with nylon and hand-stitched with two goat skin covers. The pelota, on average, has a court life of about 20 minutes before the cover splits due to the high velocities at which it hits the wall during play.

The object of Jai Alai is to hurl a pelota (ball) against the front wall and as close to the side wall of the court with so much speed (as fast as 185 mph) and spin that the opposition cannot catch or return it on the fly or the first bounce.

If you go anywhere near 7th on Revolucion Blvd., this is the one place you can't miss. Tijuana Jai Alai schedules can be found in the building with the sign that says "Jai Alai Games - Race & Sports Books" on the corner of 8th & Revolucion.

Explanation of Jai-Alai

The Game

The game played in a round robin, usually by 8 players or teams. The game begins when Player No. 1 (or Team No. 1) serves the ball to Player No. 2 (or Team No. 2). The winner of the point stays on the court to meet the next player (team) in rotation. Losers go to the end of the line to await another turn on the court. The first player (team) to score 7 points (or 9 in Superfecta games) wins. The next highest scores are "place" (second) and "show" (third). Playoffs decide tied scores. The two wall serve in not permitted in a quiniela. In a partido, there is only 2 teams playing up to 25-35 points with the playing rules remaining the same. The two wall serve is permitted in a partido.

The Object

The object of Jai Alai is to hurl a pelota (ball) against the front wall and as close to the side wall of the court with so much speed and spin that the opposition cannot catch or return it on the fly or the first bounce.

The Serve

The server must bounce the ball behind the serving line (the No. 11 line), and, with the cesta, hurl the ball directly to the front wall so that upon rebound it will bounce between lines No. 4 and 7. In a quiniela If the ball does not it is an under or over serve and the other team will receive the point. If the ball hits the side wall first (two wall serve), the serve is invalid and the point is awarded to the opposition. In a partido, A ball bouncing before the No. 4 line is a short serve and the server loses the point. If the ball bounces after the No. 7 line, the serve is a long serve, and the server has ONE more opportunity to serve (Similar to a "net" or "let" in tennis). A two wall serve is legal in a partido.

Scoring Points

The ball must be caught on the fly or first bounce and may touch the floor only once. All three walls are in play - the yellow and the outside wood is out of bounds. In a quiniela, scoring point value is 1 until each team has played once (First round, thereafter point value is 2 (Double points). In a partido, the point value remains 1 throughout the game until a team reaches 25, 30, or 35 points, depending on what the game is set at.

History of the Game

Four centuries ago, a game which began simply by throwing a ball against a church wall, became known as jai alai. The game originated in the Basque region of Spain, nestled between the Pyrenees Mountains in North-Central Spain and Southern France. The game originated as an attraction for the annual festivities in the basque regions, that is how the name "Jai Alai" originated (meaning merry festival in basque). The area is known as the birthplace of the world's fastest sport and has produced some of the world's best players. The first indoor fronton was built in 1798 in Marquena.

Jai alai is a Basque word meaning "merry festival" and was first introduced in the United States in 1904 at the St. Louis World's Fair. The first Fronton arena in the United States was built in Miami, Florida in 1926 and wagering on jai alai was later legalized in 1934. Florida, Connecticut and Rhode Island have become the home state's to host the sport in the United States. The first jai alai court to be opened in Mexico was Mexico City's in 1928. Tijuana followed in 1947 when it opened its doors for the first time. Acapulco opened its jai alai in 1994 and Cancun soon follewed in 1995.

Even though more than 400 years has past since the sport first originated, it has changed very little. The game is known for its fast pace and exciting tournaments. The ball, or pelota, has been clocked at speeds of over 180 mph. According to The Guinness Book of World Records, Jose Ramon Areitio threw the fastest ball ever. It was clocked at 188 mph on Friday, August 3, 1979 at Newport Jai Alai in Rhode Island.

Jai alai is played on a special court called a cancha. The cancha has three walls that are made out of granite because it is the only material that can withstand the impact of the pelota. Although there is no standard size cancha, most are 172 feet long(about half the length of a football field) 40 feet high and 40 feet wide. The cancha has three walls and a wire screen forms the fourth wall so spectators may safely view the games.

The rules of jai alai are similar to those followed in tennis and raquetball. All games start with a serve which must land in a certain lined area of the cancha (between the 4 and the 7 line). The receiving player must catch the pelota in the air or on the first bounce, then return it to the wall in one continuous motion. The player cannot stop the motion of or hold the pelota. The players continue to volley until the pelota is missed or goes out of bounds. There are three judges, or referees, on the cancha to enforce these rules (One on the 4 line, the senior judge on the 7 line and the other judge on the 11 line).

The quiniela matches have eight post positions where post one and two play against each other every time. The winner of the point stays on the court and the loser goes to the end of the line. After everyone plays their first point (End of the first round), The points are double (each point counts for 2). This round robin scoring format continues until points in the game reach seven. Jai alai has both double and single matches with the rules remaining the same regardless of the type of competition. The partido matches' rules remain the same with the only difference being that their are two teams instead of 8 and the point goal is 25, 30 or 35 instead of seven.

Jai alai is a very difficult sport to master. Training for this sport begins between the ages of eight and ten years old and continues for years before the individual can become a professional jai alai player.

Much more information can be found by clicking here at Extreme Jai-Alai

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