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Steinbauer Retires as Jr. Orange Bowl Tournament Director

Steinbauer Retires as Jr. Orange Bowl Tournament Director

For the past 26 years Jodi Appelbaum-Steinbauer has guided the Junior Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships from its embryonic stages to a world stage where aspiring young pros begin their paths to the sport's pinnacle. 

Steinbauer's contributions to junior tennis in Florida place her on Mount Rushmore alongside the late, great Eddie Herr and legendary Bobby Curtis, creators of the state's most prestigious junior tournaments. 

Now 67 and wanting to travel and spend more time with her family, Steinbauer is announcing her retirement as tournament director of the Junior Orange Bowl. She can't wait to celebrate on an Alaska cruise with husband J.R. — longtime director of the Junior Orange Bowl golf tournament — as well as their daughter, Erika, and daughter, Julie, and her husband, Jordan.

When Jodi took over the reins as tournament director in 1996, the 12s division had laid dormant since Chanda Rubin and B.J. Stearns were crowned champions in the boys' and girls' brackets in 1988.

However, Steinbauer and Junior OB tennis chairman George Carless fought for its return in 1998, and both the 12s' and 14s' divisions have flourished ever since, crowning youngsters such as Andy Murray, Madison Keys and Coco Gauff years before they became elite pros.

From left: Jodi Appelbaum-Steinbauer, Andy Murray, J.R. Steinbauer

At one point, the popular tournament in which college recruiters, coaches and agents come to check out future clients and scholarship recipients, had more than 1,400 players in the qualifying and 128-player main draws of the four divisions.

For logistics sake the numbers have been cut in half simply because there weren't enough courts at the William Kerdyk Biltmore Tennis Center, Salvadore Park and Crandon Park Tennis Center, former site of the Miami Open.

Jodi made up draws consisting of the sport's greatest stars, including Murray, Gauff, Andy Roddick, Juan Martin Del Potro, Justine Henin and more recently Sofia Kenin, Bianca Andreescu, Emma Raducanu, Leyla Fernandez, and Frances Tiafoe.

Steinbauer, a native of Miami, played in the Junior Orange Bowl before becoming a two-time Florida state champion at Miami Beach High and four-time All-American player at the University of Miami, where she won a national collegiate doubles title and was on the state's championship team in 1976. Jodi is a proud member of the UM's Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, where she served as president from 2007-09.

Jodi was a bronze medalist in singles and silver medalist in doubles for the US at the prestigious Maccabiah Games in Israel in 1977. Steinbauer played professionally for a few years and defeated Liz Smylie (once ranked 20th) in the first round at the 1981 US Open. Also, has a win over Kathy May Fritz, a former Top 10 player and mother of current Top 10-star Taylor Fritz.

This doesn't mean she's putting her racquets in mothballs, as she will continue to smash overheads in USTA leagues. Jodi has been a teaching pro for decades as well as a substitute schoolteacher in the Miami-Dade Public System.

She will continue her philanthropic endeavors with the City of Doral and its PP4K program, which works with the police to organize recreational activities for at-risk children. Jodi will still volunteer to assist in several other Junior Orange Bowl events, unrelated to tennis, such as golf, creative writing.

No doubt, Steinbauer's quarter of a century experience of communicating with the International Tennis Federations, the USTA, coaches, parents and players will be sorely missed and tough sneakers to fill.

"It's all about the players, watching and helping them succeed at the next level, while making sure their experience was the best it could be," Jodi said. "My years as tournament director combined with my passion for children and growing the game of tennis. I'm thrilled to follow the careers past Junior Orange Bowl players like Coco, Andy, Frances, and Emma succeed as pros."


Source/Photos: Junior Orange BowlThis article also appears in the July-August 2023 issue of Florida Tennis Magazine. Be sure to subscribe for expanded coverage, exclusive interviews, and in-depth tennis news.

Correction: In the July-August print edition of Florida Tennis, the photo caption incorrectly identified Jordan Applebaum-Steinbauer — it should have read J.R. Steinbauer. It's been corrected in this article.

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