Spanish Basque Ball players use hands to hit ball | TribLIVE.com
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Spanish Basque Ball players use hands to hit ball

Associated Press
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AP
In this Tuesday, March 5, 2019 photo, players of Basque Ball hold balls on their hands protected by layers of tightly-bound tape, in Pamplona, northern Spain. With their hands protected by layers of tightly-bound tape, the players take turns swatting a small, hard ball at speeds that reach 115 kilometers (71.4 miles) per hour.
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In this Tuesday, March 5, 2019 photo, Diego Iturriaga, 27, a player of Basque Ball known as “pelotari”, holds Basque Balls as he poses for a photo at Labrit court or fronton, in Pamplona, northern Spain. With their hands protected by layers of tightly-bound tape, the players take turns swatting a small, hard ball at speeds that reach 115 kilometers (71.4 miles) per hour.
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In this Saturday, March 9, 2019 photo, Basque Ball player or “pelotari” Danel Elezkano, right, celebrates winning the match 22-10 at Labrit court or fronton, in Pamplona, northern Spain. With their hands protected by layers of tightly-bound tape, the players take turns swatting a small, hard ball at speeds that reach 115 kilometers (71.4 miles) per hour.
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In this Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019 photo, Victor Esteban, 25, a player of Basque Ball, warms up at Labrit court or fronton, in Pamplona, northern Spain. With their hands protected by layers of tightly-bound tape, the players take turns swatting a small, hard ball at speeds that reach 115 kilometers (71.4 miles) per hour.
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In this Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019 photo, different models of Basque balls are displayed for sale at a store in Pamplona, northern Spain. With their hands protected by layers of tightly-bound tape, the players take turns swatting a small, hard ball at speeds that reach 115 kilometers (71.4 miles) per hour. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)
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In this Saturday, March 9, 2019 photo, Basque Ball player or “pelotari” Victor Esteban, returns the ball during a match at Labrit court or fronton, in Pamplona, northern Spain. With their hands protected by layers of tightly-bound tape, the players take turns swatting a small, hard ball at speeds that reach 115 kilometers (71.4 miles) per hour. (AP
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In this Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019 photo, a poster with photographs showing how to protect the hands to practice the Basque Ball or “pelota vasca”, at a store in Pamplona, northern Spain. With their hands protected by layers of tightly-bound tape, the players take turns swatting a small, hard ball at speeds that reach 115 kilometers (71.4 miles) per hour.
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In this Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019 photo, Basque Balls items are displayed at a store in Pamplona, northern Spain. With their hands protected by layers of tightly-bound tape, the players take turns swatting a small, hard ball at speeds that reach 115 kilometers (71.4 miles) per hour.
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AP
In this Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019 photo, Victor Esteban, 25, a player of Basque Ball, returns the ball on a Labrit court or fronton, in Pamplona, northern Spain. With their hands protected by layers of tightly-bound tape, the players take turns swatting a small, hard ball at speeds that reach 115 kilometers (71.4 miles) per hour.
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In this Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019 photo, Victor Esteban, 25 years old, a player of Basque Ball, known as “pelotari”, prepares and protects his hands ahead of a training session, in Pamplona, northern Spain. With their hands protected by layers of tightly-bound tape, the players take turns swatting a small, hard ball at speeds that reach 115 kilometers (71.4 miles) per hour.
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In this March 1, 2019 photo, players of Basque Ball known as “pelotari”, use tape to protect their hands ahead of a match at Labrit court or fronton, in Pamplona, northern Spain. With their hands protected by layers of tightly-bound tape, the players take turns swatting a small, hard ball at speeds that reach 115 kilometers (71.4 miles) per hour.
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In this Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019 photo, a group of young players of Basque Ball or “pelota vasca” take part in a training session, in Berriozar, near Pamplona, northern Spain. With their hands protected by layers of tightly-bound tape, the players take turns swatting a small, hard ball at speeds that reach 115 kilometers (71.4 miles) per hour.
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In this Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019 photo, Javier Bariain shows an old photograph of a Basque Ball or “pelota vasca” match, at his store in Pamplona, northern Spain. With their hands protected by layers of tightly-bound tape, the players take turns swatting a small, hard ball at speeds that reach 115 kilometers (71.4 miles) per hour.
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In this Saturday, March 9, 2019 photo, basque ball player or “pelotari” Jon Albizu, jumps to return the ball during a match on a Labrit court or fronton, in Pamplona, northern Spain. With their hands protected by layers of tightly-bound tape, the players take turns swatting a small, hard ball at speeds that reach 115 kilometers (71.4 miles) per hour.
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In this Saturday, March 9, 2019 photo, Victor Esteban, center, prepares to hit the ball with his hand during a match at Labrit court or fronton, in Pamplona, northern Spain. With their hands protected by layers of tightly-bound tape, the players take turns swatting a small, hard ball at speeds that reach 115 kilometers (71.4 miles) per hour.
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AP
In this Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019 photo, Victor Esteban, a player of Basque Ball, known as “pelotari”, prepares and protects his hands ahead of a training session, in Pamplona, northern Spain. With their hands protected by layers of tightly-bound tape, the players take turns swatting a small, hard ball at speeds that reach 115 kilometers (71.4 miles) per hour.

PAMPLONA, Spain (AP) — Their hands protected by layers of tightly bound tape, the players take turns swatting a small, hard ball at speeds that reach 115 kilometers (71.4 miles) per hour.

They are playing a match of Pelota Vasca, or “Basque Ball,” a sport popular to its native Basque region that overlaps northern Spain and southwestern France. The game is similar to squash, but played without a racket and with only three walls.

The court is called a “Fronton,” and players can play the ball off the front, back and the left-side wall. The right wall is missing.

Pelota Vasca was traditionally played in the village square facing a church, whose facade offered a perfect wall for players to hit the ball.

Now it is a professional sport played indoors with organized tournaments in northern Spain played by individuals or doubles, where many spectators bet on the winner. As a trophy, the winner of the annual championship is awarded a large green Basque beret, called the “Txapela.” The champion is called the “Txapeldun.”

The handmade ball was originally made from a small hard plastic core bound with strips of cat intestine and wool thread, with an outer layer made of dried sheep skin. Today the balls go through a more industrial process, with synthetic materials being used.

Other varieties can be played with a racket or a hoop, but the traditional style is just to whack the ball with the open hand.

Players, called “pelotari,” can spend an hour before a match preparing their hands. They coat their fingers and palms with a wax covering that they first heat up with a flame. Then they wrap each finger in layers of tape and some thin foam padding to reduce the risk of injury.

The players bend backward like tennis players taking a serve to generate power. The impact of the ball is clearly heard in the stands. It can often be painful, making players grimace when they strike the ball incorrectly.

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