Boston Globe: 'Sullivans Serve a Family Tradition'
Sullivans serve a family tradition
Athletic kin inspired Wayland siblings
By Marvin Pave, Globe Correspondent
A lina Sullivan was about to claim her luggage at a New York City airport last year when one of the greatest tennis players of all time walked over to the carousel.
more stories like this"I had never met Billie Jean King," said the Boston College junior from Wayland, "but she had won national mixed-doubles championships with my dad. I introduced myself as Paul Sullivan's daughter. She wound up talking to my dad for the first time in more than 30 years on my cellphone."
Alina, who plays at No. 2 doubles and fourth and fifth singles for the BC women's tennis team, and her brother, Ricardo, a promising freshman pitcher on the Bentley College baseball team, are part of a family whose sports pedigree spans generations.
One brother, Todd, was a star hockey goalie at Yale; another brother, Sean, played tennis at Harvard and on the pro circuit; and their sister, Courtney, a former Wayland High Athlete of the Year, was a varsity lacrosse player at Colby College in Maine.
Their father won national indoor mixed-doubles titles with King at the Winchester Lawn Tennis Club in 1966 and 1967, and added an outdoor title with Patti Hogan in 1969 at Longwood Cricket Club in Chestnut Hill. Their mother, Jeannine Balbiers, a former No. 1 singles player at Arizona State, also had a brief professional career.
Balbiers's father, Ricardo, played Davis Cup tennis for Chile and was an NCAA singles finalist for Rollins College in 1950, and her grandfather, Enrique Pinedo Shambon, played baseball in the Mexican League.
Last summer in Newport, R.I., Alina Sullivan and Jeannine Balbiers won the US Mother and Daughter doubles championship, a title they plan to defend this year.
"I was pretty much born with a racket in my hand," said Sullivan, a past winner of the 16-and-under Super Nationals doubles title with Alexis Plukas of Lincoln, who now plays varsity tennis at the University of Pennsylvania. "I've inherited my father's quickness and my mother's strategy for making the opponent commit the first error," Sullivan said.
BC coach Nigel Bentley said Sullivan is particularly skilled at doubles because of her quick hands at the net. "Alina is a fighter on the court," he said, "and she's always the first to arrive at practice."
A two-time recipient of the tennis team's Leadership Award, Sullivan also has played a few times against her younger brother.
"I aced her once," Ricardo Sullivan said. "That's my claim to fame in tennis."
But baseball is another story for Ricardo, whom Bentley coach Bob DeFelice, now in his 40th season, calls one of the better pitchers in the Northeast-10 Conference after a stellar career at Wayland High.
"Ricardo is the only player in Dual County League history to make the All-Star team four times," DeFelice said. "He's just an outstanding all-around player."
This season, he recorded three saves in consecutive appearances against ranked Division 2 teams, the first against Pace and the others in a doubleheader against Franklin Pierce. He picked up his third win of the season with a 10-strikeout performance against Saint Rose Saturday.
more stories like this"I went to a lot of tennis camps as a kid and my Mom thought I should have stuck with it," Ricardo said, "but I decided baseball was for me when I was playing in the yard with my family, made a diving catch on a grounder, and felt that was pretty cool."
His father went the opposite route, playing baseball as a youngster and getting the attention of professional scouts before tennis became his passion.
Paul Sullivan played his first professional match against the legendary Don Budge in a New Hampshire exhibition, and his last one at Longwood against Hall of Famer Bjorn Borg in the US Pro Championships.
Once ranked as high as 19th among US singles players and third in doubles, Sullivan, who grew up in Belmont and is a longtime Wayland resident, was a Harvard tennis captain in 1962 and 1963.
He was inducted into the USTA-New England Hall of Fame in 1994 with two of his sisters, Edy McGoldrick and the late Patty Thompson. His late parents, John and Edith, had played in numerous tournaments with their children, and in 1965 the USTA presented the Sullivans with the association's inaugural Family of the Year Award.
McGoldrick, who lives in Natick, won the US Indoor Girls Singles championship in 1950 and worked closely with King in 1974 to organize the Virginia Slims women's tour. Thompson, who also played tennis at Boston College, earned multiple top-10 New England rankings. Another Sullivan sister, the late Joan Carder, also was a highly ranked player.
"Paul and I always played well together and had fun on the court," King said. "It helped that Paul was so quick around the net. And Paul's sister, Edy, was instrumental in providing playing opportunities for many generations of women tennis players.
"Last year, when I was approached by Alina, I was completely shocked. It was so great to meet her and get caught up on what was going on with her family.
"Being around families like the Sullivans are the memories we cherish long after our days on the tour are done."