REDWOOD CITY -- A beloved professional bowling champion and San Jose State alum was killed early Friday when he was struck by a vehicle while getting out of his crash-damaged car on a Redwood City freeway.
Tony Edward Reyes, 38, played 14 seasons on the Professional Bowlers Association Tour, winning the tour championship in 2006 in Detroit.
According to the California Highway Patrol, Reyes was on northbound Highway 101 in his Chevrolet Trail Blazer about 12:30 a.m. Friday when for an unknown reason he crashed into a sound wall past Marsh Road. After the crash, he stepped out of his vehicle and was hit by a passing Jeep Liberty, inflicting serious injuries.
Officer Art Montiel said Reyes died at the scene and that the Jeep driver stopped and cooperated with police. The collision remains under investigation.
During his run to that pro title, Reyes bowled just the 18th televised perfect game in tour history.
Most recently the San Bruno resident co-ran a pro shop inside the 4th Street Bowl, not too far from San Jose State University, where he was an All-America bowler, earned a degree and worked as an assistant coach for the school team.
Reyes was extremely popular among his professional colleagues and the greater bowling world, known for his charm and ability to foster camaraderie while serving as an ambassador to the game.
"You always hear about how someone is a great person. In Tony's case, you almost can't put it into words," said PBA commissioner Tom Clark.
Lindsey Wong met Reyes as a teenager playing youth tournaments at Homestead Lanes and bowled with him at San Jose State. They became lifelong friends and later business partners.
"He enjoyed traveling the country and meeting all kinds of people," Wong said. "Bowling is a sport where the athletes are really are accessible, and he liked meeting fans. That's why everybody knows Tony. He's really well-liked."
Reyes graduated from Monte Vista High School in Cupertino and later competed for the Spartans from 1992 to 1995, earning First Team All-America honors in 1993 and 1995. He earned a degree in radio, television and film in 1998. In addition to the 2006 Tour title, he also won eight regional championships. His perfect game during that run was just one of 22 recorded in a televised final since the PBA Tour's inception in 1959.
"Everybody felt great about him," Clark said. "Even his opponents were giving him high-fives and hugging him afterward."
Reyes phased out from full-time professional play over the past few years to focus on his family and pro shop business. He married wife Nicole last year and had a 1-year old daughter, Gianna.
"His family obviously became his new calling in life. His little girl meant the world to him. He loved going home to his family," Wong said.
He rekindled his competitive chops in 2010 with what Clark described as an "unbelievable" run at a televised tournament of champions and finished sixth, putting him out of the running but impressing many.
"Even when he wasn't out there full time, he still had it, and could compete at any time if he wanted to," Clark said.
Reyes was revered as an ambassador of the game: Clark said Reyes' Latino heritage expanded the reach of bowling to new communities and lauded his willingness to speak at bowling clinics, dinners and youth groups. Wong echoed that sentiment.
"Tony was very giving of his time and knowledge. He loved to help people become better bowlers. He just loved helping," Wong said. "Obviously we have a business together, but it wasn't about making money to Tony. It was more about teaching, explaining the sport and helping people understand how they could improve."
Staff writer Mark Gomez contributed to this report. Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.