Pickleball Points

Marion Lisehora, a local girl, has been mentioned many times in the Coastal Point because of her many medals in various senior sporting events, including pickleball. I nicknamed her “the Queen Mother of Pickleball” a few years ago. For you new to pickleball, Marion was the young girl who many of us saw on the newsreel of the Saturday movie matinee in the towns of our youth. I know, many of you are saying: “Newsreels?”… Yes, before television and personal computers.

Marion sat on the back of the horse that dove down into a water tank at the Atlantic City Steel Pier. When Public Broadcasting (PBS) did a segment on pickleball a few years ago about our growing pickleball community, I asked the producer, as he prepared the scene for an interview with Marion, if he played pickleball. He said, “No, I have bad knees,” and as I remember, the bright-eyed Marion quipped something like, “Suck it up, buster — we all have aches and pains, we just don’t whine about them.”

That’s vintage Marion, and her many friends this summer organized a birthday party to celebrate her 90th birthday. She plays at all the local courts, so be sure to give a royal hello to the Queen Mother.

But this week I want to focus on Marion’s mixed-doubles partner.

It takes a very special man of duke-like qualities to play mixed doubles with the Queen Mother. A man faster than a speeding bullet, capable of leaping tall buildings in a single bound. His name is Bob Schaeffer, a local from Salt Pond. Some of the many folks Bob has taught how to play pickleball brought to my attention Bob’s selfless captaining of pickleball at their community. He has been the pickleball teacher, inspiration, superhero and guiding light.

Marion, the Queen Mother, and Bob, now officially dubbed, in this column, “the Duke,” have qualified to play pickleball in the National Senior Games. Bob, a veteran and father of five, and his wife, Janice, came to the area almost three decades ago from western Pennsylvania. Bob was already involved in basketball and softball before college, where he added track and volleyball.

When he moved to Bethany, he helped organize the Olde Tymers Softball League, became a member of the Delaware Naturals softball team and participated in the Delaware Senior Games. He has played in four National Senior Games and won — pay attention — the 2005 Senior Softball National Championships.

Bob was introduced to pickleball about a decade ago, and since then his Salt Pond community converted one tennis court into four pickleball courts, where perhaps 40 players have been trained to play and participate in weekly sessions.

Several years ago, Bob reconnected with Marion — this time in pickleball — and they won gold in both the Delaware and Maryland Senior Olympics. This gave them the privilege of representing Delaware in the National Senior Games at Fort Lauderdale on May 10-23, 2022, for which officials have capped the number of pickleball contestants at 1,400. This is an endorsement for both pickleball and the benefit of exercise.

Thank you for your service, Bob, and thanks to both you and the Queen Mother for showing all of us the power of sport and healthy longevity. Good luck in Fort Lauderdale, and the good news is that building-leaping will be easier there, because the buildings there are not as high as in Metropolis and Gotham City. The reason I draw these comparisons is because you both are our collective superheroes.

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.