Cale Balusek is pretty good with the tennis racket.
The Flower Mound High School sophomore made the varsity tennis team as just a freshman last year.
He said he spent six hours a day practicing tennis in the summer leading up to his freshman year and bumped it to eight hours a day leading up to this season.
But Cale enjoys every minute on the court. Frankly, he's just happy to be alive to play.
On April 30, 2001, Cale was born but was 10 weeks premature. His twin brother, Caden, had died at 26 weeks.
Cale's future looked uncertain. He weighed 2.5 pounds at birth and was just a little larger than the size of his father's hand. But after two months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), he was finally able to go home. At that point, he weighed 5 pounds.
Now, 16 years later, he wants to give back to the hospital that allowed him to play tennis.
Cale is hosting the Love Babies doubles tennis tournament Nov. 17 at Wagon Wheel Tennis Center in Coppell. Proceeds will go to the Baylor Health Care System Foundation, which will distribute the money to Cale's choice. He said he wants it to go to the NICU.
“They saved my life, and I want to pay them back for saving my life,” Cale said. “They're the reason that I'm alive and am able to play tennis, getting straight A's and rocking school.”
But it didn't come easy. Cale was born with two holes in his heart, he had hyperthyroidism and chronic lung disease, and he was put on a breathing tube since he couldn’t swallow.
Through middle school, he also had asthma, though he said that has subsided.
The Baylor system will have a special place in the family's heart. Cale was born at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Grapevine but was transferred to the Garland facility, where he stayed for about one month. Then he was transferred to the Baylor NICU in Irving for another month. Finally, he was healthy enough to go home.
“The doctors, nurses and equipment are awesome,” said his mother, Tonya Balusek. “They deserve any amount of money we can give them.”
The plan came quickly. After discussing the idea with his parents one night, he went into his room to design a tournament logo. He finished it the same night.
Soon, he had created fliers and a website for the event, his family gathered financial support from about 20 businesses and they had gotten 30 players to participate in the tournament. The goal is to have 60 players, which Tonya said would bring in about $2,500 with donations.
Cale was also strategic in his planning of the event – it takes place the same day as World Prematurity Day.
Being in its first year, Love Babies will be for women only at levels 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0.
“We hope to make this an annual event,” Tonya said. “We're hoping that the next one can include men's divisions and mixed doubles.”
Looking ahead, Cale said he would like to go to Texas A&M, the same school his sister Maddy attends, and play club tennis.
First, he hopes to help the FMHS team continue a strong season. The team is 5-2 in district play and will begin the bi-district playoffs next week. Individually, he is 8-2.
“I'm shocked I'm able to do this when I think about how my life could have been,” Cale said. “I'm thankful for being able to play tennis, and I'm thankful for being able to walk.”