Thursday, April 02, 2020
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20200122 Pickleball IMG 0765As I peered through my camera lens, I saw the angle that the attack came from. A pickleball player at the net wanted to go cross court with a smash. She went cross court and she smashed it.

Unfortunately for her and her teammate, I was standing out of play as the ball crashed into me, serious injury just a moment's notice away...ok, so I'm being a bit dramatic.

They lost the point.

“Yes, I was aiming for you,” said my plotting attacker. “You were targeted.”

Everyone laughed as the eight players taking up residence on the two air-conditioned pickleball courts at Bentsen Grove RV Park continued on with their games. Another 10 or so people waited their turns at what Larry Vermeersch said is the only indoor air-conditioned pickleball court in the Valley.

I moved to a different spot – away from “her.”

20200122 Pickleball IMG 0737Vermeersch is president of the Bentsen Grove Pickleball Committee, a group of five people of varying pickleball skill levels that work to make sure things run smoothly and efficiently, and above all, to see that the club's motto from Day 1 remains the most integral part of the entire pickleball experience.

“It's all about fun, fitness and fellowship,” said Vermeersch, who can be seen quite regularly at the pickleball courts, when he's not on his patio watching his Winnipeg Jets play (they happened to be playing the Chicago Blackhawks later on this day and, unfortunate for Larry, the Jets lost 5-2. Chicago's win pulled them into a tie for mediocrity in the NHL's Western Conference).

Now in their third season of use, the courts have drawn in experienced pickleball players and those who have never played the sport at all.

The committee has times set up so players can find skill levels that are comfortable playing in. One thing for sure, the fun, fitness and fellowship is a perfect moniker for this seemingly tightly knit group of ballers.

Two years ago, I played on these courts during their inaugural year, trying my hand at pickleball for the first time. I had to find out why the craze. A combination of tennis, table tennis and badminton, the sport has raced through South Texas with a fiery popularity. Being a tennis and table tennis player, after I became comfortable with the speed of the sport and the difference in weight of the pickleball (basically a whiffle ball), I figured I would show some of the other players here how it's done.

Bam...I smoked a shot down the line. Plink...It came back as a drop shot I couldn't reach.

20200122 Pickleball IMG 0771Kapow...I drilled my big lefty forehand between the two players at the net, surely they will be in awe of this precision and power.

Whack...It was drilled right back at me at my feet, unreturnable.

A little frustrated at this point, I had another trick up my sleeve and WHAM...I hammered one right at my opponent to jam him. He sidestepped it and sent a winner past me like if he was buttering toast – it was that easy.

Suddenly I had not only gained respect for the sport and its athletes, but also caught pickleball fever.

The group now has 125 active members, including a tennis pro who has found the sport fascinating (“and he's amazingly good,” Vermeersch told me). It's bursting at the seams. There's another indoor court in the “hangar,” but with it not being air-conditioned, it is a little lonelier than it used to be.

There's also one player who literally wears a shirt with a target attached to it. They say he's never been hit yet.

I wonder if he's ever met “her.”

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