The first official racquetball organization, founded in 1968, was the International Racquetball Association (“IRA”) which is currently known as USA Racquetball. The IRA began running professional events in 1973 in response to the creation of the National Racquetball Club, formed by Robert Kendler. Both associations ran professional racquetball events until 1982, when the NRC ceased operations. Additionally, in 1981, the Catalina Pro Tour (“CPRO”) was formed by Charlie Drake. CPRO was an invitational tour comprised of 12 United States players. In May 1982, the NRC ceased operations and in September 1983, the CPRO ended.
In 1984, the Racquetball Manufacturers Association (“RMA”) was formed with Drew Stoddard as the first commissioner. Stoddard resigned in 1985 and was replaced by Dr. Jim Hiser. In August 1988, Hiser formed the World Professional Racquetball Tour (WPRT”) with 10 events and a new television contract. The RMA continued to exist as an industry association for racquetball equipment manufacturers. Unfortunately, in November 1988, a coalition of several top players forced Hiser’s resignation and in April 1989, a new organization was formed, the Men’s Professional Racquetball Association (“MPRA”). Hank Marcus was named Commissioner in August 1989 and in August 1991, the tour was renamed the International Racquetball Tour (“IRT”), the name the tour operates under today.
The tour has had 4 Commissioners since it became known as the IRT. Hank Marcus, who began in 1989 when the tour was known as the MPRA, changed the name to IRT and was commissioner until March 2001. IRT leadership was then transferred to Dave Negrete (March 2001-November 2009), who turned over the IRT to former #1 ranked player Jason Mannino. Mannino ran the IRT until June 2017, when the IRT was sold to EJ Promotions, a group of investors led by John Scott.
Men’s professional racquetball has a long history of great players including Charlie Brumfield, Marty Hogan, Mike Yellen, Cliff Swain, Sudsy Monchik and Kane Waselenchuk. In 1978, Hogan, who ushered the power game in the sport, began a streak where he made 62 straight finals, winning 56 of them. Yellen, Swain and Monchik are all year-end champions (17 total) with Swain and Monchik accounting for 6 US Open titles. Kane Waselenchuk may be the greatest player in professional racquetball history with 14 US Open titles and 13 year-end titles.
The IRT has had several large sponsors over the years, including TransCostal Mortgage, VW Credit, Inc. (VCI), Motorola and Verizon Wireless. The IRT has been broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN 360 and the Tennis Channel. In 2009, IRT outsourced its video streaming to EnetLive, owned by John Scott, which streamed IRT events under the name IRT Network. When John Scott purchased the IRT in June 2017, the IRT Network was merged into the IRT. IRT events are currently being broadcast on its social media platforms: Facebook and You Tube.
The IRT is currently owned by EJ Promotions. EJ Promotions is a group of 10 investors, all of whom are successful business people as well as long-time racquetball enthusiasts. Led by CEO Mike Grisz, this team is dedicated to producing top-notch events, supporting and furthering junior racquetball programs, increasing the international awareness of the sport and creating an arena for players to be able to make a living playing professional racquetball. The IRT features approximately 300 professional players from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Central & South America. The IRT season runs from September through May with 12-14 Tier 1 and Grand Slam events each season and another 40-50 satellite events.