Looking back, Mitch Schumacher almost can’t believe it really happened.
The St. Ambrose University freshman tennis player took what he called a shot in the dark, sending a tweet to Maroon 5 guitarist James Valentine, inviting him to hit a few tennis balls with the Fighting Bees when the popular rock group played last week at the i wireless Center in Moline.
Valentine, a self-professed tennis nut, responded a few days later and agreed to meet Schumacher and the rest of the St. Ambrose team at the Quad-City Tennis Club in Moline.
“I was starstruck for like a minute, but he was really genuine and nice and really cool,” Schumacher said. “Once you got on the tennis court, it was an even playing field.”
Valentine has been known to hit balls at tour stops along the way. It actually was teammate Luke Wood’s mother, Diane, who gave Schumacher the idea to try.
“My mom read an article a few years back that when he goes on tour, he likes to stop at places and play tennis,” Wood said. “If you tweet him and get ahold of him, he’ll come play with you. So, we tried it, and it worked.”
Schumacher said that when he found out it was going to happen, he got on YouTube to see how good Valentine was.
Turns out, guitar isn’t the only thing Valentine is good at.
“I don’t know how many he won or lost, but he could keep up with us,” Schumacher said.
“I had a chance to play doubles with him, and we won, so I think we might have a spot here at Ambrose for him,” Wood joked.
In all, Valentine spent almost an hour hitting with the St. Ambrose men’s and women’s teams as they rotated to play doubles with their celebrity guest Feb. 28. Valentine enjoyed his time so much he returned on March 1 to hit again, staying until 5:30 p.m., just a couple of hours before his concert. After the first session, Valentine had his picture taken and signed autographs with not only the Ambrose teams, but anyone else who happened to be at the club that day, including members of the Moline High School boys tennis team.
Wood said that after the men’s team found out Valentine was coming, they extended an offer to the women’s team, although the women were not sure if it was a prank.
“Nobody believed us,” Schumacher said.
“We got to the club, and he was a few minutes late, and they were all freaking out,” Wood said. “When he finally showed up, the girls were surprised he actually came.”