Pickleball points — Picking pickles and the pickleball tour

This week, I became enamored with the title “Picking Paddles,” but I am a little shaky on the rest of the story. Well, here goes…

Recently, the weather was absolutely perfect, and my wife and I decided to go picking pickles in a pretty petite private pasture. (OK, wise guy — you try to say it quickly.) As I was headed out, I thought I would poke my head in to see how the pickle crop was doing at Forest Landing.

Terry Guella and Laurie Morris were having the battle of the titans, both squared off at net in a volley-and-dink frenzy. Forest Landing now has two pickleball courts lined off at their recreational center, with two more in the plans. Well done! You have a great community over there.

We then drove past the two courts at Bear Trap, but Don Creel must have been playing elsewhere. I continued on down Central Avenue and waved at Elaine Herbert at Country Village, who was measuring the net on their one tennis/pickleball court, which they are hoping to double next year.

We next headed west to the two dedicated pickleball courts at Millville By the Sea, where the cement base is still curing on their two new courts. That is going to be a first-class pickleball center with an impressive gazebo waiting area.

We continued west, and I couldn’t help but stop at Seagrass to say hello to Michael Siegert and see their recently updated and expanded four pickleball courts. Nice job! Steve Melofchik recently hosted Michael and some of his crew on our three pickleball courts at Fairway Village.

Literally down the road, the pickles were out in full force at Bay Colony, and I was absolutely thrilled to see the improvements and expansion. They now have four resurfaced courts, two of which are attractive permanent dedicated pickleball courts.

Bob Gaudreau is the top-seeded player on our Ocean View Crew and without a doubt one of the most improved players in Delaware. Lynn Urbanski is vice president of their HOA and responsible for the upgraded pickleball courts project. George Kalvinsky was involved in the first iteration of pickleball courts at Bay Colony. Nice job, folks!

We headed back east — you know, toward the ocean — and swung by Bishop’s Landing, where I had conducted several group clinics for Ron Belinko and that wonderful group over there. They are repairing one of their tennis courts and plan to have four lighted pickleball courts soon.

About then, Steve Donohue, one of the pickle connoisseurs over at Bay Forest, called with a question about our Ocean View Crew pickleball team, and before hanging up, I asked how their pickleball program was developing.

I helped Steve with his clinic this summer on his two lighted outdoor courts, and he explained that their community has plans under way for the completion of an indoor facility to house three pickleball courts next year. That is a beautiful and very impressive community.

I cranked up my old tractor, and we continued east headed toward Bethany West, where I saw Lee Metzger just pulling out. He proudly mentioned they had two courts opened for play this year, and as I was leaving, I discovered two more courts just across the street at the Villas of Bethany West.

We couldn’t help but drive past Salt Pond. I did a clinic there last year and just love that name. And wouldn’t you know that a community with such a great name would put everyone else to shame, with four new dedicated pickleball courts. There was no one on the courts, but even the heartiest pickles need to rest. How does that old expression go? “All play and no rest slows down even the very best.”

Mind you, these are all private communities, each with their own various sets of bylaws about inviting guests. But the point is that there is now little excuse to sit around and not get in shape with one of those big long tennis rackets or one of those little pickleball paddles.

I hit the accelerator and drove over to Ocean Highway and then south to Sea Colony to check on their winter program. Mike, the big pickle over there, told me they are now set up for eight sessions a week for the general public on their one indoor court in the gym; two on Wednesday, and then two on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The sessions are at 1-3:30 p.m. and 6-8:30 p.m. on each of those four days.

This year, they have added some indoor sessions exclusively for their homeowners as well. A quick phone call will satisfy specifics.

If you factor in Bethany Club Tennis, as well as the tennis courts at Sea Colony, then we are collectively almost nose to nose between tennis and pickleball courts. One might have to say this area below the Indian River must now be taken seriously, perhaps worthy of a three on the coveted Michelin pickle rating, as an East Coast racket sport oasis.

On the way back home, I pulled up next to Steve Maneri, the honcho over at the Town of Millville who is managing the three dedicated public pickleball courts in their new planned park in Millville. He was sadly looking across his empty fields, not hearing any voices of kids playing in the planned park nor pickleballers laughing it up like kids.

Why? It should come as no surprise that he has had to wait for permit approvals. But, in the interim, he has been learning how to play pickleball and now seemingly has the pickle bug. When I last saw him again later that day, he was practicing serves and returns in a 20-mph wind!

Now, let’s see… I counted more than 40 private courts, 15 lighted, three indoor and three dedicated public courts by next spring, all within a 4-mile radius of my home.

When I ask business people in the area for sponsorship support, and they ask me “What is pickleball?” I now know I am definitely talking with the wrong people.

I am already looking forward to my next “Picking Pickles” tour to see some of my other friends and play some pickleball. Why? Because it keeps me relaxed and laughing. And when my great-grandkids ask if I was ever on the pickleball tour, I will nod affirmatively!

In some recent tournament play, Delaware did it again. Players returning from the Mid-Atlantic Pickleball tournament in Northern Virginia, where a very strong field was assembled, reported winning three golds and one bronze. Pearl Morris (gold), Diane Milam (two gold), Delia Wan (gold), Bob Gaudreau (gold and bronze), Rick Bell (gold) and Don Tomb (bronze) all brought home medals. We are proud of you. Congratulations!

Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.