Relishing Pickleball: Pickleball News

David Zapatka

If you’re an enthusiastic pickleball player and haven’t yet discovered the Arizona Pickleball Players League, APPL, you may want to go to the website and read about the opportunities for competitive team play.

There are five regions across the state of Arizona, all offering women’s, men’s, and mixed divisions. This season there were 307 teams and more than 3,700 players, nearly twice the participation of last year’s season. Anyone doubting pickleball is America’s fastest-growing sport hasn’t seen what’s happening right here in our own backyard.

Speaking about our own backyard, many players we’ve seen and competed against around Arizona and Texas have been inducted into the Pickleball Hall of Fame. The 2022 inductees are Norm Davis, Pat Kane, Larry Moon, and Wes Gabrielson. The towering physique of Pat Kane playing alongside pickleball legend and Hall of Famer Mark (Yoda) Friedenberg, created an impenetrable wall. Larry Moon’s quickness and accuracy was too tough for most to overcome.

Speaking of the 2022 Hall of Fame inductees reminds me I was remiss in not naming the 2020 and 2021 inductees in this column. The 2020 inductees were Bill Bell, Jim Hackenberg, Alex Hamner, and Hilary Marold. The 2021 inductees were Yvonne Hackenberg, Gigi LeMaster, Steve Wong, and Keith Bisel. Arizona connections to these famous pickleball players are many. Jim and Yvonne Hackenberg presented a seminar with Mary Littlewood, author of Pickleball Fundamentals, over 10 years ago following the grand opening of the Ahwatukee Pickleball Club, one of Phoenix’s first clubs. Gigi LeMaster joined local players Jaimi Foster, Rena Han, Patrick Leonard, Ron Robinson, Dianne Zimmerman, and me as models for Mary Littlewood’s book, Pickleball Fundamentals. Facing Hilary Marold and Mark Friedenberg with my partner Diane Baumgartner at the 2019 USA Pickleball National Championships at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in an incredible night match on our way to a silver medal was a real thrill. The presence of Steve Wong, his play and his groundbreaking companies, are well-known throughout Arizona. Congratulations to all these Pickleball Hall of Fame inductees.

Pickleball in my hometown of Chicago has been in the news. The Chicago summertime heartbeat is baseball, the Cubs and the Sox. Last season, the Cubs famously broke out their paddles in the bullpen. This year, they invited APP Tour President Ken Hermann to Wrigley Field for some on-the-field play. At the Sox’s Comiskey Park, No. 1 seeded mixed pair Simone Jardim and JW Johnson threw out the first pitch Aug. 31 as the White Sox hosted the Royals in front of 40,000 fans. How cool was that!

Country superstar Dierks Bentley set up a net on stage for an impromptu game mid-concert. Talk about super exposure for our sport!

Remember to celebrate World Pickleball Day on Oct. 10!

Have a question about pickleball? Want to know more about the sport, the rules, equipment, or have some pickilicious news you would like to share with our pickleball community? Email David Zapatka at [email protected].