Pickleball Points — Performance at the championship level

Date Published: 
Sept. 8, 2017

Whenever I teach a new student to play pickleball, I first ask then what sport they previously played, because it helps me explain pickleball to them in terms they already understand. I also sometimes ask about their profession, because an artist processes information differently than an engineer.

When Dom Travaglini moved to Fairway Village and was learning pickleball, I asked him his profession. Wow — he was an honest to goodness rocket scientist and was responsible for the mechanics of providing continuing power to the Mars Rover.

But when I asked Dagsboro’s Captain Dick Carl what he had done in his career, it was certainly an eye-opener when the retired master-chief explained he is still employed as a paddlewheel riverboat captain. Captain Carl pilots the paddlewheeler the Dorthy Megan from Suicide Bridge near Hurlock down the historical Choptank River, which you might know because James Michener centered it in his book “Chesapeake.”

If you want a piece of Delmarva history, be sure to take Captain Carl’s paddlewheeler, because onboard they provide an authentic Delmarva crab feast as you view the river scenery and perhaps jealously watch an eagle soar above that wonderful river.

What a small world — Captain Carl’s one-time next door neighbor, by the very same name, is my “little brother” in the Sigma Chi fraternity. Wonderful piano and song entertainment was provided onboard by Nanticoke’s Earl Beardsley, and he and I were both surprised to learn that his father was my childhood family doctor.

Pickleball is making the world smaller, and someone — theoretically one of our readers who has Kevin Bacon’s contact information — should tell him to rework and tighten his six degrees of separation.

My mind could not help but reflect on the generations of native children who played along the shoreline, and then Captain John Smith in 1608 on his exploratory voyage in a shallop from Jamestown along the Choptank River, meeting the elders of the various river tribes. I wondered whether, if Captain Smith had pickleball in his sack of tricks, perhaps some first encounters with the natives might have worked out better.

When I left town for my Choptank River exploration, in my mind’s eye, Dom had a corner table at DiFebo’s, because fine Italian food best fuels his scientific mind. I imagined that he neatly arranged before him six freshly sharpened pencils, six work pads and a slide rule, as well as a laptop, beginning to work out what effect that Mars gravity — only slightly more than a third of ours — will have on our game of pickleball.

Hey — I caught that snicker. Let me ask you, how much time did you spend this week calculating the effects of the gravitational field on a pickleball on Mars? Well, scientists plan ahead, and I am sure Dom didn’t just slap batteries from Ocean View’s CVS on the Mars Rover.

You see, pickleball will be the one game explorers should take to Mars — not only because it would be great daily exercise, but, as my cruise up the Nanticoke suggests, would be good for making friends with any space aliens who happen to be zipping by. Let’s get it right this time.

Back on dry land, I later checked in on Dom, and he had come up with some interesting questions. How high is the upward pickleball serve going to propel the pickleball on Mars? Are we going to need height restrictions or time penalties for balls taking more than five minutes to return to the court? How will the dink react at .38 gravity, and the return of serve?

It seems like the volley will be the primary shot, but at .38 gravity, even I will be able to chase down the ball for a spectacular return. Will the ball and paddles need to be re-engineered? And you don’t even want to think how difficult the famous third shot will be at .38 gravity.

Hopefully, Dom will be able to get some time on the Cray Supercomputer at Los Alamos to answer these critical questions. Our Coastal Point readers will be the first to know.

And, by the way, reach out to your neighbors and learn what kind of exciting adventurers they experienced on this journey we call Life. Who knows? Perhaps your neighbor was an administrative assistant involved in a momentous life-changing event, like creating the cell phone, or had been a world-class picklemelier — an international pickle connoisseur.

I would like to congratulate the members of Ocean View Crew, led by Ocean View’s Bob Gaudreau, and including Pete Rayner, Steve Donohue, Dom Travaglini, Charlie Biddle, Mike Smith, Bob Zimmer, Brett Stonesifer, Bruce Smart, Steve Costa and Steve Melofchik, for their recent results in Delmarva Team Pickleball. They have all trained and practiced hard, and the results are now really showing against top-notch competition. I am proud to be associated with them.

This week’s breaking news for everyone is that the YMCA of the Chesapeake (Pocomoke/Salisbury/Easton) has formed a team to compete with us in the Delmarva Team Pickleball League.

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.