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Pickleball is taking Kern County, and the nation by storm

One of the fastest growing sports in America
Posted: 9:33 PM, May 03, 2018
Updated: 2018-05-04 04:33:39Z

Pickleball a sport with an unusual name bringing people of all ages together to join in on the fun.

A USAPA ambassador in Bakersfield, “Pickleball Vinny” told 23 ABC that pickleball is not an old person sport. “(He) wants to take that myth out of the equation. It is involving everybody; everybody is coming to the sport.”

It all started back in the 1960’s where a congressman from Washington state found himself with nothing to do one summer. He had an old badminton court, ping pong paddles and a plastic ball which contributing to the start of a new game.

Pickleball is a combination of three different sports. Table tennis from the paddle used, badminton due to the dimensions of the court and tennis because you are playing of the surface of a tennis court.

Local pickleball enthusiast Elizabeth Valdez found herself looking for courts in Bakersfield about four years ago and had no luck. She decided to take matters into her own hands.

“(I) live in a cul-de-sac we started marking off the courts and played with friends and family. Eventually we went to the city who decided they were interested and they painted lines on a lot of the tennis courts and here we are,” Valdez said.

The game is played with rules very similar to tennis, that is, except for line on the court you can’t cross until the ball bounces. In tennis, you can go up to the net and slam the ball down as an overhead shot. With pickleball, you have a kitchen line, also known as a no volley zone, that is your limit line. That’s where you stop. If you are going to take a shot out of the air, you have to stop before that line in order to proceed. You can step into the kitchen and hit the ball only after the ball bounces.

And the name, well that has an interesting story too.

“There are two stories but (I) like to go with the more interesting one which is, Pickles was the dog of the wife of the creator of the sport. The ball would go off of the court, the dog would chase it, so the dog’s name was Pickles, so it became Pickleball,” “Pickleball Vinny” said.

According to the USA Pickleball Association website, the number of places to play the sport has more than doubled in the past eight years. People all over the county are turning to several different Pickleball groups for health reasons as well as for entertainment.

As for the future of pickleball here in Kern County, one group is looking to make a big change to a tennis court near you.

“We are looking at one more facility to convert one of the tennis courts into something more permanent. But we are really in the back of our minds trying to build a dedicated pickleball facility. We put it in our master plan and we are hoping that sooner than later it becomes a reality,” said David McArthur, General Manager of NOTR Recreation and Park District.

If you would like to get involved with pickleball, “Pickleball Vinny” and his pickleball club will be hosting free clinics all summer long on Tuesday’s at 10:30 at Greenacres Park. The park is now under construction.