Misadventures of Andrew Lenz and a yellow ball

Month: May 2017 (Page 1 of 4)

Mixed Bag

Unfinished Business

I forgot to share a few of things.

Unlike two previous slips where I ended up on the ground, I had my first real fall on Monday at Brommer trying to get a shot from Rich. I landed on my right elbow. No bleeding but a scrape and it’s still sore two days later.

And when I played that recent game against Terry Long, he asked if we’d be ok playing with a different ball. He was trying to get used to it since it would be the ball used in an upcoming tournament. We said fine. It was a bit bouncier. Before the first serve, as a test, I dropped it and a typical club ball (made by Onix, I believe) from the same height at the same time and Terry’s came back up a bit more. It was my first time playing a full game with a different ball. I can now totally relate to players online complaining about “such and such ball” being used at a tournament. It does affect one’s game some.

“Good serve” is a comment I hear more and more frequently. I heard it in a number of games on Monday. It’s not so much speed (they aren’t impressively fast) as it is placement. And failed serves are becoming more rare. So, trending up on that front.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017 (Court Day #33)

I got up a bit stiff. I took a couple of Advil and headed to Derby Park. I arrived at 9:10 a.m. It would be a warm day.

One of my first games, if not my first, was with Alan against Jennifer (whom I’d never met) and Deana (whom I’d also never met). Before the game, Allan told me that Deana is Jerry Louis’ mixed doubles partner—that tells you something right there! She’s not one that you’d just look at and immediately say, “There’s a strong player.” (Karen Long looks the part, however.) But appearances are deceiving in pickleball. Ya never know! And Deana played well. That first game was rotten for me. An inordinate amount of errant balls. Alan and I were down badly, came back, but lost in the end.

DerbyFenceWaiting.jpg
Jennifer, Deana (“Dee-nah”), Jerry, Eric, Karen Long (in teal), Terry Long (in blue). Waiting to play.

Mike

Mike is growing on me. Maybe I’m just gettting used to him blurting out his feelings when things go awry. And the fact that he’ll put his hands on his knees and bent over in disgust if you accidentally mess up a serve. But he has learned my name. Maybe I’ve earned a spot as a “regular” in his book. And I’m not always going to be a horrible partner—I do make occasional good shots on the same court as him. He’s maybe not super mobile but he very reliable with drop shots and placement. Not perfect—he occasionally bats one into the net—but consistency and control is aspects of his game to admire.

His big beef when we were partners today was me rushing up to the kitchen when my dropshot was too high and got smacked back at my feet in no-man’s-land. He told me not to do that. But, of course, I did it again a couple shots later. He was frustrated and rightly so. But he does praise good shots too. We did win.

Karen

Karen Long and I played against Eric and Mike. Karen makes some amazing shots. Shots you’d expect her not to get, she does. She and I won, though that was no surprise. She covers a lot of others’ errors. If I hit a ball to hit and it got slammed back, she’d return it anyway! Karen is also humble and encouraging. A genuine and nice person.

Things were busy with people lining the fence to play. Games were called to be “play to 9, win by 1”. After an hour, it thinned out and returned to normal scoring.

Last Game

The last game was visor Geoff and me against Eric’s friend Ted and John P. It was back and forth. There was a strong breeze at my back and I had two serves go long. Geoff also had at least one. I’m getting to the point now where I’m starting to get close to John’s skill level. He still has more experience and may be better at the net. I still manage to drop soft shots into the net. The opponents are back at the baseline and all I have to do it dink it over the net for a winner. But no. I drop it into the net. Don’t get me wrong. I do pull it off now and then, but failure is too often and painful! Funny. I’m not even sure, but I think we lost, but it was very close.

Play wrapped up about 12:20. Long and fun morning.

Traveling

My pickleball playing will be limited due to travel this month. I’m heading to Anaheim for work on Tuesday, June 6 and will be returning Tuesday, June 13 from Portland, then gone again on June 16 to Ontario, CA and heading back on Sunday, the 18th.

It’ll be weird not playing for a while. BUT, maybe I’ll get to squeeze in a game in Portland. We’ll see. Though I’m not there for me. I’m there for family. Still, I might be able to sneak away for a few hours.

A break may be good for my body. I’m nursing a sore right knee, a sore right ankle, sore hips, sore back, sore right glute . . . none of it is bad enough to keep me from playing, but still it’s a pain. I’ve played six times in eight days. Or you could say 18 hours of play in that timeframe. I suppose that’s what I get for playing hard!

Number of days on a court: 33
Number of total hours: 95

Brommer

Monday, May 29, 2017. (Court Day #32)

I got up a couple hours early in order to get to Santa Cruz Memorial Park by 6:30 a.m. to help put up U.S. flags in the military section of the cemetery to commemorate Memorial Day and honor the fallen veterans. Hey, I can give up a couple hours of sleep! They gave up far more than I did today! Freedom isn’t free, as they say.

MemorialDayFlagSetup.jpg

Afterward, my friend Patrick invited me out to breakfast so we met at Santa Cruz Diner afterward. Patrick’s son Casey is my son Nicholas’ best friend. They’ve known each other since preschool and still hang out now that they are at UCSD and UCLA, respectively.

Pickleball

My wife was off walking the dog when I got home at 8:30 and I texted her about me maybe going to pickleball. To her credit, she’s been super supportive of me getting out for exercise and she called me and said it was perfectly fine with her.

I checked SantaCruzPickleballClub.org for details on playing. I overheard yesterday someone talking about being at Brommer today. After checking, sure enough Mondays are the day for Brommer Street Park. I’d never been there, so it’d be a new experience.

BrommerCourts.jpg

Parking was super easy, as I knew from mapping the location out on my phone beforehand. There’s a large adjacent lot. There was plenty of parking when I got there a couple of minutes after 9. I’d been warned about the playing surface and it was both better and worse than I was expecting. Of the six painted court outlines (no filled in blocks), four were intact surfaces. However, the other two had potholes where the court surface was gone, leaving about a 1/4″ depth hole. Of the few games I played on those two courts, it only affected one serve which was replayed.

BrommerCourtSurfacePits.jpg

 

There were a number of players at Brommer that I’d never seen before.

Playing with Jerry and Rich

I got play a game as Jerry’s partner and I held my own. We played against Rich and a woman that I can’t remember. Rich was the novelty. I’d never seen Rich before. Rich is a middle-aged short stocky muscular dude. Not sure his heritage . . . Latino? Filipino? Anyway, he’s a strong player. Fast serves. After the game, Jerry said I’d do better if I don’t move through my shots. I hit the ball too deep (out of the court) as I moved forward on a return of serve. I told Jerry, “I probably heard that once a month for the last four months. The trick is implementing it!”

I chatted with Rich later and he said he’s been playing for about four years. He also said he injured his shoulder about six months ago and he even recently got a cortisone shot and that the injury is affecting his play. I told him that I couldn’t tell and he was still really good. He said, “I used to be able to hit a backhand with such spin that 80% of the time it would be hit back into the net. I can’t do that anymore.” I have my shares of aches and pains . . . a slightly sore right ankle, slightly sore right and left hip . . . but I count my blessings that I don’t have a long chronic severe injury like Rich. Pleasant guy.

In one game, Kim (instructor at Cabrillo College) stopped me and said, “Make sure to hit it deep to keep them at the baseline if they are there.” I graciously accepted her advice. She was right. I’ve given the advice to others myself. Mistake. I know better. It might have been on a backhand, I’m not sure. I’ll just have to pay more attention. It’d be nice to have my new “action camera” back. Hmmm. I just checked the FedEx tracking number. It was delivered five days ago on Wednesday last week. I haven’t heard from them. I’ll have to drop Akaso a note and see what’s up. Maybe they already shipped out the replacement refurbished unit.

Newbie Ted

I played a game against Leslie McGarvey and a fresh face, Ted, son of Tim. I don’t remember who Tim is. Stuart started calling Ted “Teaspoon” . . . “TS” is an abbreviation for “teaspoon”—Ted Son of Tim. Anyway, Ted is a very youthful 40. Someone asked what he did for a living and he said he was a lawyer. I wouldn’t have taken him for a lawyer. Ted was raw, having never played before, but he had a mean forehand. He wasn’t super accurate or tactical, but that’s expected. Leslie is a good player. Fast low serve and not a lot of mistakes. My partner said that she’s a 5.0 player. I looked her up later and she won a two gold medals at the recent Bay Area Senior Games: Mixed Doubles 60-64 and Women’s Doubles 60-64. (Obviously, I didn’t memorize all the names of local winners that I listed in one of my own blog posts!) Even with Leslie playing with a beginner, we got taken down easily, something like 11-5 or thereabouts.

Brommer has its own signup board which is kept with all the rest of the pickleball supplies in a large shed outside the chainlink courts area.

BrommerSigupBoard.jpg

Grita was looking to put together a stronger game. Peter had already asked me and put his name down after mine on the signup board. Jerry said he was in for Grita’s game and said, “Andrew would be ok as a fourth.” Well, that’s a vote of confidence! I told them that I didn’t want to leave Peter hanging. Peter, knowing that I was missing out on playing, said, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to keep you from playing by signing up with you.” I’m not sure why others may have been avoiding him—or us!—Peter is a decent player and upbeat. Not a great player, but not rotten by any stretch.

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Jerry Louis—in red, it’s hard to believe that he’s in his 70s—sitting next to 1st time player, Cary, explaining something to Janet. Tom (visor & black shorts) stands in the background.

The next to last game of the day was Grita and me against Janet and Stuart. There was a somewhat stocky asian fellow named Dave sitting watching. Dave was in a game earlier with Stuart, Dean, and Kent . . . that means he’s an advanced player. Stuart was giving advice to Janet throughout the game.

After one particularly contested point, Dave yelled, “There was a YouTube video right there!” A good rally.

Stuart attempted to lob a ball over my head but it was unsuccessful. Being a snotty upstart, I teased him, “Stuart! Lobs are a low percentage shot!” He laughed and countered, “I’m going to make you pay for that!” Within a few points, he attempted to lob it over my head again but I leaped up and returned it for a winner. I have to take the good moments when they come—especially against good players!

After the game, Dave asked me, “How long have you been playing?” “Four months.” Janet chimed in, “But Andrew is serious. He uses a GoPro to video his games.” Dave said, “That’s how to improve.” Dave asked if I’d seen the Pickleball 101 series on YouTube by Joe Baker. I told him that those videos are great and that I’d discovered them the first week I started playing. Dave said, “Many in our club play wrong. They don’t do enough dinking. If you go elsewhere, like Palo Alto, you’ll see it.” He finished off, “If you keep at it, you’ll get to be really good.”

I squeezed in one more game after 12. Kevin and me against two women. I think one was Cathy and the other was Susie. We won fairly easily. I wasn’t as tired as previous outings. Good thing!

The good shots are coming more frequently and while I still make bad shots, they are coming less often. I’m no “big dog” player, but I am getting better.

Oh, and another first. Five days playing in a six day span.

Number of days on a court: 32
Number of total hours: 92

Yep, Improving

Sunday, May 28, 2017 (Court Day #31)

I got up a little sore. Two Advil and I was off to Derby Park. I arrived about 9:15 with a game underway. I warmed up the Maree and her husband Mark.

I played a few games. The first were hit or miss. No pun intended!

Jerry Louis wanted to get his students to play games against each other so he could continue preparing for his class. Originally, it was going to be Eric, John P., Kim, and me but Maree was very disappointed that Jerry wasn’t aware that she’d signed up for the class too. So Eric stepped out and it was Kim and me against Maree and John P. “to make it even.” But it wasn’t. I played well and Kim and I handily beat Maree and John, leading the whole game and it was never in doubt. Afterward, John told me, “You played well.”

We had some visitors, Jack and Cindy from Saratoga. I’d never seen them before, but Maree was familiar with them. They were both pretty good players, but Jack was the stronger one. Grita—who hasn’t been around for a while—and I played against them. I played very well. Grita remarked, “I was here when you started, you are playing very well.” Jack and Cindy made us work for it, but Grita and I won by about a 2:1 score ratio.

I did get a first today. I had my first successful shot off of my hand! It wasn’t the most pleasant experience, but it works. By the rules, anything below the wrist is a legal hitting surface—that includes any part of your hand. Not that you’d want to, of course!

On Thursday night in Scotts Valley, I had mentioned to Mark Dettle that my daughter Charlotte played pickleball for her middle school physical education class. I asked her this afternoon if she’d be willing to come out and play with me for a day during the summer. She said she would though she only did it during P.E. and so she didn’t feel that she’d be great at it. Still, it’ll be fun to get her out!

Number of days on a court: 31
Number of total hours: 89

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