Adventures of Andrew Lenz and a Yellow Ball

Month: February 2018 (Page 1 of 4)

Unforced Errors

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 (Court Day #131)

I arrived about five minutes early to Derby Park and walked in with John P. He said he was avoiding the mud found in the parking area on the opposite side of the park where he usually parks.

There was a new fellow, John, from Pleasanton. When I asked, he said he had only been playing a couple of months. He played pretty well though. He and I beat Mike and visor Tom twice in a row—and the first game was a wipe out. I asked about his prior racquet experience and he said he’d played a lot of squash.

Near court, Rich and Jennie taking on Grita and Ted. In the far court, Marianne (white hat) and Mara against new Mike and Gary.

Rich appeared today. Rain is in the forecast for the next few days, so I think he wanted to,get some play in. Rich is a good player. As I’ve gotten better, Rich is less formidable as he once was. He can still sometimes get me on a serve here or there. But he telegraphs where he’s serving by where he stands on the service line. Once I was actually paying attention, and accounting for that, it made it considerably easier to return his serves.

He’s Back!

Pleasantly, Eric was back from his extended flu. It was great to see him again. Eric and I played a game against Craig and Tom #3 and won 11-4. I thought we were going to shut them out, but they scored some points late in the game.

After that, we played against John P. and Ted. Eric and I took a fast lead until John and Ted whittled it down to 6-4. But then Eric and I went on a run and finished up the game winning 11-6 or thereabouts.

Played ended a few minutes after noon, but boy, the way I was feeling, it sure felt like 12:30 or 12:45!

Erid, Ted, John and I went to lunch afterward. That was fun.

Sonoma Tournament

John P. talked me into playing in an age-based tournament, the Sonoma Wine Country Games in Santa Rosa in June. They say they’ll break age groups up into skill level if they have enough people signed up. I was trying to figure out if I had friends willing to put me up for the night before, but John P. convinced my wife to come up, so she and I will stay somewhere other than someone’s couch!

Number of days on a court: 131
Number of total hours: 372

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Back to Earth

Sunday, February 25, 2018 (Court Day #130)

It was a bit warmer today than yesterday as I was about to head out the door to pickleball, 46° instead of 32°, but it was also about two hours later than when I left for the tournament. I arrived at Derby Park at about a quarter to 9 and got about to setting out a few things and blowing off the courts. Dave Allenbaugh arrived about 5 minutes later and helped set up. With the chilly weather, it would be another lighter attendance day. We ended up with all the nets set up but never had much need for the signup board with only a few players at a time waiting to get on.

I’d shared a photo of John and me from yesterday with some of the bigwigs in the Santa Cruz Pickleball Club, including Dave. Dave said he’d be adding the photo to the Tournament Gallery page later in the day since he was working on updating the club website anyway.

And We’re Off…

The first game was Dave A. and me against Tom (not Tom S. or visor Tom) and Wayne. I missed a couple of serves . . . one just outside the line to Tom’s backhand in the middle and another where I far overcompensated and it was a couple feet outside the court. (First game, right? Oy.) On my next opportunity, I laughed and told Dave that I’d get this one in! Tom overheard and, kidding around, walked up to the net. “Hit it into this box!” indicating the box formed by the “L” of two tennis lines and the other “L” corner by the service court at the kitchen. It was about 18″ deep x 4 feet wide. I served the ball. Dave was quick to point out, “Hey! You hit it in the box!” Yes, I did. It’s just a matter of focus and picking a target. Dave and I fell behind early but came back and won that first game.

Tom S. and I played a game against Daniel and visor Tom. Daniel is a strong player, he’s always been better than me—though I’m getting much closer—and visor Tom is a strong player who is better than Tom S. I was expecting to lose, but we won 11-9. Surprise! We had a rematch when we rotated back onto a court and the outcome was much more what I had originally expected . . . though even worse! I think we lost 11-3 or something awful.

I got to play a few games with and against Oleg and Olga. Oleg is always a good challenge. Balls come back that you might not expect to come back. I am improving. There isn’t nearly the gap in play between us as there was in the past. Oh, Olga had a great shot—I hit an around the post shot off the left post and Olga hit it back, I had already started coming back into the court, but the ball was just inches out of my reach and she got the point. That’s the second time that I remember that happening against me, the first was Carl at Brommer a few months ago—it’s a bummer to being making a great shot and have it be foiled!

Over the course of the day, I got a few congratulatory comments—and some teasing—about the gold medal from people. That was nice.

Tournament Analysis

Taking into account all the five games yesterday, John and I won by an average of 5 points in 15 point games. Of only the games we won, it was by an average of 7 points or almost a 2:1 ratio. While it didn’t feel like it at the time, John and I did dominate. Had I played with Eric, him being a stronger player than John, I can’t imagine not winning every game and it being even more lopsided. Paso Robles will be a bit of a quandry. It’s a bigger venue and a bigger draw, so the caliber of players might be better, but maybe not. I emailed Eric asking his thoughts about contacting the Paso Robles organizers and see about moving up to 3.5 even though their entry is closed. I think a 3.5 team would have to drop out and it would depend on how they handle their waiting lists. But I’ll see what Eric thinks. We don’t want to sandbag, that’s not fair.

Website Fame

And, here you go! John and me temporarily immortalized on the club website.


Number of days on a court: 130
Number of total hours: 369

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Saturday, February 24, 2018 (Court Day #129)
Livermore (Indoor) • Men’s Doubles 3.0

Tournament day!! Yes, I’m excited! Why else would I give up an hour and half of sleep and get up at 6:20 on a Saturday morning? I quickly got ready and in shorts and a sweatshirt got to my car only to be greeted with a surprising temperature reading in my dashboard!

Yep. 32°F! Water turns to ice!

And was that a sheet of ice on my windshield? I turned on the washers then cranked up the defrost. It took a minute to get it marginally workable. Even then I almost rear-ended a parked car around the corner from my house! Ack! Good thing I was going slow! I was a bit anxious since I told John I’d pick him up at 6:50 and he told me that he’d meet me on the corner a block from his house—and it was literally freezing outside! I missed my turn to his house and had to go back. “Dang. What street is it again?” I was driving and saw a man crossing the street—John! I bet he was even happier to see me than me him!

The Drive Up to the Venue

It took a little over an hour to get to the Robert Livermore Community Center which is quite the impressive complex. We got out of the car into the 35° weather. Brrrrr. We were peering through the doors of the building closest to the parking lot when we heard a helpful woman’s voice, “Pickleball is around the corner in the next building.” We smiled and thanked her and around we went.

The gymnasium building in the complex.

John and I walked past the greeter desk and signed in at the entry table, picked up the offered gift commemorative towel and snacks then settled in. I put on my ankle brace and ate a banana. John asked at the inside tournament table about warming up. They said to just be aggressive and get onto a court since that was not organized.

Inside the gym was a table with business cards and demo paddles spread out by someone looking to sell paddles. The man said, “You’re welcome to play with any of them.” I thanked him, but the last thing I’d want to do is swap out a paddle that I know the performance characteristics of for an unknown paddle. If it was rec play, it’d be a different story.

We waited for an opening on a court then warmed up for about 10 minutes then stopped and left the court open for anyone to use. Oh, the court lines were much better than at the Camden Community Center. Thank goodness!

Participants warming up. There was a big screen hanging between the two sets of courts.

I had brought my Akaso (GoPro knockoff) camera and a tripod. I told John so and he gave me a look. Ok, I skipped the camera. (Though at the end of the morning, I found myself standing in front of someone else’s sports video camera on a tripod. I’m not the only crazy one!)

Ground Rules

At about a quarter to 9, Brian, the coordinator, got everyone together on the bleachers then went over the rules for the round robin. Play to 15, win by 1. Someone asked, so it was clarified that if the ball hits the net crossbar, the point is won, it’s not a let as in the new rules. If the ball hits the raised basketball backboards—about 20 feet in the air—it’s a let. He said if there is a tie at the end of the tournament, the team with the biggest total point differential would be awarded 1st place. Then he announced the first round of games. John and I would be playing immediately at court #1 at the far end from the entrance.

Game #1

We’d agreed earlier in the week that John would be the starting server, so he put on the “first server” band on his wrist. We introduced ourselves to Ron and Eugene, our first opponents. John and I very quickly found ourselves down 3-0. One of those points was me trying an attack on a dink that went into the net. Just dumb. I was not “into the game” yet—I had tournament jitters. I was concerned and thought, “Do we even belong here?” But we climbed back into it and even took the lead before we lost that first game 15-12. Ron was a little less mobile than Eugene, but had quick hands and great strokes. Eugene later said Ron “is a tennis player, I’m not.” He also said, “You guys had us!” Yeah, but we blew it! Both were good players, but Ron was the stronger player. As the game was winding down, John returned a serve to Ron and we ended up losing the point. As soon as John returned that serve, I was kicking myself for not suggesting to John that avoid Ron—I did talk to John about it later, but that didn’t help after the game was already over.

Tantalizing medals sitting on the tournament table. Was there any hope for us?

I texted Eric, my originally intended partner for this tournament, who was home with the flu, giving him updates of our progress.

Game #2

Our second game was against Rick and Keith. They had a serious demeanor but were nice guys as were all of our opponents on the day. Both were taller and bigger than John and me. We went out ahead and stayed ahead most of the game. By the time we had reached 11 points, I was super thirsty and very warm. I would be happy when this game was over and I had incentive to get off of the court. I could have taken a time out—we were allowed one per game—but I didn’t want to interfere with the momentum of the game, but they did tie it up 12-12. But their climb halted and we won 15-12.

I noticed that John is continuing to develop a good drop shot. It was very effective at times.

While waiting for our next game, my back was getting tight. I squatted down and leaned forward to stretch it out. I suppose it might have been time for another ibuprofen—I had taken two at 6:30—but I didn’t take any.

Game #3

The third game was against Keith and Dave. They were undefeated. I was, understandably, a little worried. But John and I won that game 15-6. There was a one wild point in that game where they hit the ball down the middle and John swung but couldn’t quite connect on his forehand volley and let out a yelp . . . but I was next to him, with no time to think, I had already switched paddle hands to my left and hit a half volley back over the net and down the middle for a winner. John’s miss and my hit were about a second apart. Keith and Dave were confused. I asked, “Was John’s yell a distraction?” Confused faces. “If the yell distracted you, we can replay the point.” Keith shook his head and tossed me the ball. After the game, Keith asked us, “Are you 3 and 0?” I said, “No, we lost our first game.”

Game #4

The fourth game was against Milo and Art. Both were taller then us, but also a little older—I’m 50 and John is 61. I think they were in their mid-60s. They won the “toss”—picking the number 1 or 2 predetermined by Brian—and decided to serve. They went ahead 1-0. Losing! I was concerned. They weren’t a bad team, they made us work, but John and I were playing better and better as the morning wound on. One time, with John calling the score something “to 7”, Milo added, “A very hard 7!” We won 15-8. There was one point in this game where they were pressing their advantage and had John on the run on his side of the court and John made a valiant effort to race across his side court and return a ball. He almost made it but still the effort earned him a round of applause from the bleachers!

Game #5

We went into the fifth and last game against a team that hadn’t won a single game, Doug and Andrew. While they seemed to be having fun and were good sports, I felt bad for them, but I couldn’t allow myself to get sloppy with point differential an important factor in the medal assignments. Andrew was easily over 6 foot. 6’3″? He’d be able to reach balls. Regardless, we went far ahead. In the midst of this game, there was a quick volley rally at the net between me and Doug. I was able to finish off the point, but it was hard earned. We all got some applause for our work. I never even thought of the audience of other players until they clapped, then I remembered that they were watching. We stalled at 12-1 for few serve rotations, then we went on to win 15-3. Would that be enough?

Standings, pending the results of the last two games.

The Waiting Game

It came down to John and me waiting for the last two games to finish. Worst case, we end up in a three way tie for 1st and end up with bronze on a tie-beaker. It’s painful watching the team we want to lose to be winning. First, we watched Keith and Dave beat Rick and Keith 15-10. Not what we wanted. Then we watched Eugene and Ron beat Milo and Art. Also not what we wanted, but it wasn’t a wipe out. With three teams going 4-1 in the round robin, we were in a three way tie and it’d come down to the aggregate point differential against opponents. What medal would we get? John said we should get our paddles for the official medal photo regardless so we headed to our things.

And the Winner is…

We were over on the bleachers by Court #1 at the far end when Brian walked up with two medals. “What did we end up with?”, I inquired. “You won!” GOLD! Well, what do you know? John and I pulled it off! Woo-hoo! (There wasn’t any official medal photo.)

We asked Maggie at the entrance table outside the gym to take our photo.

We were out the door about 12:30. The higher skill levels had been arriving since about noon for their 1 p.m. start. I dropped John off in San Jose with his wife—they were heading to Palo Alto to see their son Michael sail and meet up with him for dinner since he was visiting as part of the contingent for the University of Hawaii. John might have something to brag about to his family!

Yes, I forgot to ice my ankle when I got home. Bad. It did hold up well today though.

Number of days on a court: 129
Number of total hours: 366

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