Everybody Loves Raymond……….Wat
By: June Radicchi
“Ray is Ramsay Park Tennis; he can do it all and often does. Ray is the heart of it. If there was a Hall of Fame for team captains, Ray would be there, front and center.”
Jon Tarr, Ramsay Park Coach
Not everyone knows that tennis player/team captain/promoter/enthusiast Raymond Wat’s “real” name is Gong and his first name is closer to Munging than Raymond. It was a common practice for a time to have a “paper name” in English which made it easier to navigate the confusing immigration laws of that time. Few people know Raymond is the son of Chinese immigrants who came to America in 1948, worked very hard for others and finally bought a piece of land in Watsonville, where after years of putting every spare cent aside, were able to begin building a grocery store. They did all of the construction work themselves. It took 4 years of determined saving and adding to the building as they could afford to do so, to reach completion. Family members worked from 9a.m. to 10p.m. at the store.
Raymond did not speak English until he entered kindergarten. His life was school and work. He did not complain about those years spent “constantly living under lights” but it nourished his determination to spend his retirement “outdoors as much as possible”, he says with a wide smile. Tennis.
Ray does not talk about himself unless seriously questioned. He has shyness about him, charming for a man 66 years old. His humor is mostly self-effacing as is often the case with true comedians. His early training with his family nurtured his resourcefulness, determination to give his best to problems big and small and his oversized sense of responsibility to those around him. He applies these characteristics daily to tennis and the people who play it. The many people who know and love him affectionately call him Pappa.
“Ray is the go to person…always willing to hit balls with you even after a long practice…or restring your racquet…the first one at practice or matches and the last to leave. Ray is a big reason why I keep improving my game and why I have such a good time doing so.” Jennifer Scurich
Jeff and Julie Nielsen…”No-one defines tennis more than Raymond Wat…always encouraging, completely selfless, will work into the night with a prospect trying to craft a rally stroke…we all love Raymond Wat!”
“He makes tennis fun and is a joy to play with.”
Other frequently heard comments: Always there for us….even sweeps the court and measures the nets….packs candy in a ziplock bag every morning for instant energy then ends up giving it to the kids he sees at the courts…warm and engaging to all…a genuine good guy devoted to presenting tennis in the best light possible….best advertisement for the game…passionate player and promoter…”
On the Court Ray is a true competitor yet always remains calm and encouraging…except if he thinks he could have played a shot better. Unhappy with himself he will mutter advice aloud addressing himself in the 3rd person. As Jon Tarr put it…”Ray asks himself questions about tennis and then answers them. It’s fun to watch.”
“I’m lucky”, Ray tells me over coffee, “So I try to give back what I can.”
When people drive by Ramsay Tennis Courts they need to see them clean, well kept, a place where kids would like to learn the game. They need to see well lit courts and signs that state that USTA matches are held here.
Often I stop by when kids are taking lessons with Jon and I will hit with anyone that needs encouragement.” Then grinning at me he adds,”Until they get better than me, of course.” I mentioned that he does the same with the adult tennis players and so many credit him with their willingness to stay with the game in times of discouragement. He shares his two mottos with those in need: “Everyday is a new possibility” and “Don’t worry about it”.
With his next breath he is asking me if I think his 3 year old granddaughter is too young for a tennis racquet, (No). He wonders aloud if a pink Hello Kitty racquet would be OK to begin with and keep it fun. As if on cue Ray’s cell phone rings and it is the daily call, with the help of Ray’s son, from this same 3 year old granddaughter. The call, which I listen in on, is touching and hilarious at the same time. She calls him Apple and I venture a guess that she calls him that because the phone she uses daily to speak with him is an Apple.
When I told him that everyone I interviewed for this piece spoke with respect and great affection about him and his devotion to promoting the sport, he seemed surprised and simply shook his head. It is easy to see why everybody loves Raymond.