Pickleball Points

I hesitate to offer any pickleball tips this week because you would only get more frustrated in quarantine because you cannot practice any suggestions. I thought maybe I could answer a question I keep getting about my courtly title, “Baron.”

After all, I spent much of my life in the rackets. Not a “made man” or Edward G. Robinson character, but racket sports, to be more specific.

Some people, less than a dozen, actually just a few,

Wonder, politely of course, about my Nom de Guerre,

Baron Von Baker, coach of the Ocean View Crew.

Well, is it real or not, and if not, how do I dare?

So let me explain to you how it all came about,

And if there was a dubbing by sword from the old heir.

Wilson Sporting Goods sent me to Europe to launch Wilson court sports, but after a few years a new president dramatically changed the course heading for Wilson, and I was summoned back to launch racquetball into the American market. Instead, I made a couple of international calls, and then made a circuitous journey to introduce the first oversized tennis racket. There were a few hectic years flying around the world, and driving around Europe, the Middle East and Africa establishing a distributor network.

Which brings me to a Friday evening in Belgium, and I was dead tired. I checked into an unexceptional two-star roadside hotel, and once ensconced in my room carefully wrote out a handful of separate drafts of various messages I wanted sent by telex to Prince Manufacturing regarding potential distributors I had met with that week.

Afterwards, I went out to dinner leaving the drafts in a small box at the front desk, which was standard procedure across Europe. The desk clerk, when not busy, would create a punch tape, and then transmit by inserting the tape into a large telex machine, which would scramble my words into electronic packets and send them through the ether to Prince Manufacturing. Hopefully, a copy would be left ‘pour moi’ or ‘voor me’ depending on if the clerk was Flemish or Walloon.

When I returned that Friday evening from dinner, the drafts in the box were untouched, as they still were after breakfast, and also when I returned from Saturday lunch. I needed a strategy to get those messages sent. At lunch, my good friend “Stella Artois” had taken the edge off, so I simply asked nicely upon my return if my telexes had been sent. It was time to execute the plan Stella and I had scribbled onto a napkin.

Before dinner that Saturday evening, I drafted several more telexes, but these I did not sign with my American name, Vaughn Baker. Rather, I signed them “Baron Von Baker.” And of course they, this time, were addressed to “The Prince” rather than “Prince Manufacturing.” When I returned that evening from dinner, I discovered that not only had all my telexes been completed and sent, but awaiting me in my room was a bottle of “Vin de pays des Jardins de Wallonie,” several packages of chocolate, and of course, flowers. I remember thinking, “So this is how to play Socialism.”

From that day forward, every reservation was made in the name of “Baron Von Baker.” If someone asked, I certainly would explain why I used Baron Von Baker, like I am doing here today, but no one ever asked! When the army attempted a coup d’état to take over Spain, Baron Von Baker was the only civilian booked at the Palace Hotel in Madrid.

When my hotel was overbooked in London, the other guests were shipped off to less luxurious accommodations, while Baron Von Baker was given the manager’s private suite. Never one to waste a winning game plan, I had “Baron Von Baker” etched on my personal Prince rackets which I freely allowed others to use to demonstrate the performance of the Prince racquet. One weekend, at an indoor tennis facility in Switzerland, I organized a tennis clinic where I could introduce the Prince racket to a large group. As folks hit with my rackets, I walked up and down the court asking how they liked them.

I hit with one particular group, and when I asked how they liked my personal rackets, one gentleman said, “Very nice,” and then he quietly came over and whispered in my ear, “but we can’t use our titles in this country.”

I knowingly acknowledged with a “Thank you” and then a special head nod signifying it was a secret only to be shared between us aristocrats, and slipped my personal rackets into a tennis bag.

I continued to travel as “Baron Von Baker” for years, and noted that when I arrived, doormen said, “Welcome Baron,” reservations were handled more efficiently, the front desk staff were much friendlier, wait times for rooms were noticeably shorter, and I seemed to always get the best of hotel rooms.

Perhaps the title was helpful when I recruited the King of Morocco and the Prince of Monaco to play with Prince. My mother always said I was special.

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.