By Zachary Anderson-Yoxsimer 22 West Radio Sports Director
On a cold Monday night, bright green balls fly around the tennis courts. The shouting and laughter of the players fill the crisp air.
These athletes are a part of a group who play every Monday to exercise and share their love for the sport. The players and group size generally fluctuate but one constant remains—Hal Probert.
Probert, 78, is the president of the Greater Whittier Tennis Club, but to the club members and the city , he is much more than that. Commonly referred to as “Hal,” Probert is beloved not just for his efforts in the club, but also for his service off the courts.
“If anybody asked me to do anything, I would,” said Probert.
This includes pulling in his neighbor’s trash cans after the trash truck has passed—it’s “just the way I was raised,” he said—picking up the tabs for meals, and being a friend in times of need.
“Hal is friends with people from different walks of life,” said Marilyn Walsh, a longtime tennis club colleague. “Hal’s great.”
Walsh, 71, has known Probert for nearly 18 years through meetings on the tennis court and her husband’s friendship with him from their days at the local bowling alley. She repeatedly mentioned Probert’s calm demeanor and his ability to get things done.
Probert’s altruistic disposition stems from his service in the U.S. Army. He was stationed in Alaska for two years and spent more than three decades as an educator in the armed services. As a veteran, and later a retired teacher, he obtained a vast knowledge of the world and a clear perspective that allows him to help people grow.
His discipline also comes from his military days, keeping him in shape despite the fact that he is nearing his 80s. The tennis courts are his main source of exercise and busy work.
He was elected president of the tennis club six times. The job ranges from hosting club meetings in his garage to standing before the city council to insure that the local junior tennis tournament stays relevant and funded.
“I like the fact that he cares so much about the tennis league,” said Eric Nunez, a longtime family friend of Probert’s. “[He] goes out of his way…always.”
Nunez, 48, met Probert through his father and has become close friends with him. The three of them go to Angels games every year.
Probert is an avid fan of all the local sports teams, from the Anaheim Angels and Ducks to the Los Angeles Clippers. One of his favorite sports memories is the 2002 World Series.
One of his greatest achievements is receiving the Duane Ballard Award, a special recognition given out to members of the tennis community for their community service.
Probert noted that only four people have ever been given the award since Greater Whittier Tennis Club opened in the 1950s.
“Great guy…He’s a great guy, that’s all I can say,” said Albert Rodriguez. “He’s always in a good mood [and has] a positive outlook.”
Rodriguez has known Probert for nearly seven years and plays tennis regularly with him.
One of Rodriguez’s favorite stories involves Probert’s birthday in 2017. He detailed Probert as a bit inebriated coming from a pizza parlor before they headed to the tennis club. He was apparently more talkative than usual and even played some “extra good tennis.”
As for Probert, this “extra good tennis” helps fuel his passion to play a competitive sport later in his life while keeping him young and active. While he does expect his friends to return his slow tennis serve on a frigid Monday evening, Hal stresses the following statement as his mantra in life:
“It’s good to [do] things for other people, and not expect things in return,” he said.