USF pitcher Stunkel following in mother's footsteps

- Duke Stunkel, Jr.'s mother taught him how to catch fly balls with a tennis racket.

"I remember it like it's yesterday," said the younger Stunkel. "She used to take a tennis racket and hit tennis balls 100 feet in the air and I'd have to catch them every time until I made about 20 in a row and then we'd go inside."

The USF baseball player's mother is former professional tennis player, Kathy Rinaldi.

"She's been nothing but a tremendous role model for me my whole life," said Stunkel. "I try to follow in her path."

Once the No. 7 player in the world, Rinaldi is currently the captain of the U.S. Fed Cup team, who recently beat the Czech Republic in the semifinals at Saddlebrook Resort. They'll face Belarus in the finals this November.

"She's one of the hardest working people I've ever met in my life. I know that she'll lead the team with nothing but good intentions."

Sports has bonded this mother and son duo for life.

"I think with the sports, I know with my parents, we had a special bond, [I] shared everything with them," said Rinaldi. "That's kind of how we are with our son, Duke. You know, we spent hours out on the field, he used to get up as a little boy and you know, be ready to go play ball. So, it's very special."

Rinaldi, and her husband, Brad, a former University of Miami football player, live down the road in Orlando. They make the drive across I-4 to see their son play with the Bulls.

"You know, I'm a supportive mom," said Rinaldi. "We go to a lot of the games. We support USF and we're so proud of the team."

"She knows how important baseball and my dreams are," said Stunkel. "She's willing to support me through it all and I can't stress how much that means to me."

Their bond stretches beyond the field and the court, it's one that has Stunkel celebrating his mother, each and every day.

"I'd say, 'Mom, I love you more than anything in the world. I don't know what I'd do without you and I can't thank you enough for everything that you've done for me in my life. From the bottom of my heart.'"

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