Ratledge looks for work

Ed Ratledge rides a beach cruiser to work and shows up in flip-flops. He slips out of them when he reaches his so-called outdoor office.

The beach is where Ratledge works. On the sand is where he earns a living.

Ratledge now has to find other ways to support his family.

Ratledge plans to teach youngsters at the YMCA in Newport Beach the beach volleyball game next month. He is going to do a lot more clinics now that his career on the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals Nivea Tour is stuck in the sand.

Ratledge said he is worried the AVP season may be done early after the AVP postponed the event scheduled in San Francisco this weekend due to financial troubles. The AVP moved the event from AT&T Park to a smaller venue, Little Marina Green Park, and a different date, Sept. 11-12.

Ratledge, who lives in Huntington Beach, does not blame the current management for the AVP's woes.

"To be fair, the AVP management gave us a heads up a couple of weeks ago, saying, 'We need to find another investor,' " Ratledge said. "What'll happen if we don't find an investor for this season, somebody will come in and buy us out of bankruptcy again. USA Volleyball may get involved somehow. There will be some type of a pro tour next year. Just the size of it is what's in doubt.

"This management has done the right things for our tour to be profitable for investors. They just need a little bit more time and a recovering economy. The months where they were trying to go out and get major sponsors were the absolute worst months of our recession. People were talking doom and gloom, and we're going to be another Argentina."

Ratledge said he sees his 10-year career on tour differently now that he and his wife Jessica have a two-month-old son.

Ratledge, who is teammates with Ryan Mariano, needs to look out for his team at home. The 33-year-old depends on the tournaments to provide for his family.

The best finish at an AVP event Ratledge has recorded is fifth. The most money he has earned during a season is $39,687.50, two years ago. In the past three seasons, Ratledge said he's averaged $2,000 a tournament. Like most teams, players split the winnings.

If the season ends with five AVP events left, Ratledge said he is missing an opportunity to earn a potential $10,000, income the Ratledge family needs. There are medical bills to pay.

Ratledge said his son William underwent spinal surgery at Children's Hospital of Orange County 10 days after he was born. With the AVP not providing family health benefits, Ratledge said times are hard for players like him on tour.

Jessica, who is close to becoming a teacher, reminds her husband what he needs to do.

"You're going to have to a get a job," Ratledge said is Jessica's message on a daily basis. "Between the birth and the surgery, it's a lot of money and we're going to struggle with that for a while."

Ratledge said he is scared of what is next, even though during the AVP's seventh tournament of the season he felt like he played his best volleyball of his career last month at the Long Beach Open, where he and Mariano placed seventh and split $5,000.

Family and Ratledge's sense of humor get him through the day. The Fountain Valley High graduate joked that his son will never touch a volleyball because he wants a good retirement home.

That mostly likely will not happen. Ratledge is the same guy who teaches groups of kids in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach how to play volleyball on the sand.

Another of Ratledge's far-fetched ideas is trying out for a Major League Baseball team. He believes he has the size at 6-foot-8, 208 pounds, and the arm as a left-hander. Ratledge likes to say he is the next Randy Johnson.

"Even now, my shoulder is in great shape," said Ratledge, who played opposite on the UCLA men's volleyball team that won the NCAA title in 2000. "I can hit a volleyball 70 miles an hour. I can probably be able to throw a baseball all right. [Trying out] would be interesting. I don't know what I'd wear. I don't have cleats. I'll just show up in flip-flops."

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