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Pickleball making waves in rec play
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Walter Hiemgartner plays pickleball for six months in Hawaii during the fall and winter, then returns to the Valley for the other six months to play year around. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

Chuck Adams and Art Pargament are hoping to start a pickleball trend here in the Valley.

Adams, who is a Hughson resident and activities director for Sons in Retirement , and Pargament a Turlock resident and pickleball enthusiast hope to expand the hot new sport in the center of Cal State Stanislaus—after creating a successful Riverbank pickleball club through the USA Pickleball Association.

“We started Riverbank in July 2012, and have grown from three to four (members) and now the club has 25 members. But we have never had the sport here in Turlock,” Adams said. “We have opened it up to the community and are welcoming anybody. Right now we have about nine in the group and we hope to keep it growing.”

Invented in 1965 by U.S. Congressman Joel Pritchard from Washington and businessmen Bill Bell, the game emphasizes the same elements as tennis—only a smaller court and the use of paddles not racquets —along with baseball sized whiffle balls.

The court is the exact size of a badminton court, one third the size of a tennis court. The net is also two inches shorter than a tennis net. It is a combination of tennis and ping pong, Adams said.

Bell and Pritchard kept in mind the original purpose, which was to provide a game that the whole family could play together. Pritchard had a cocker spaniel named Pickles, who became interested in this new game. Whenever a ball would come his way, he would take the ball and run off with it, because you see, it was Pickle’s ball. And that is how the game got its name.

“There is also a social aspect out of the game that develops out of playing which is a bonus,” pickleball member Walter Hiemgartner said. “There are no negatives out of it. Just getting it known is challenging because we are just getting started in this area. We see a lot of former tennis players that are converting over to pickleball; it seems to be a smoother transition.”

According to the USAPA, as of July, there are approximately 1,900 places to play pickleball. Three years ago, in July 2010, there were only 845, nearly a 50 percent increase.

Everyone is welcome to come out and try it, said Adams. Equipment and lessons are provided, just bring a folding chair and water and you are ready to go. Pickleball is played at 8 a.m. Thursdays at Crane Park in Turlock.