Adventures of Andrew Lenz and a Yellow Ball

Month: November 2018 (Page 1 of 4)

A Non-Starter

Friday, November 30, 2018 (Court Day #229)

The tennis elbow arm band I had ordered arrived yesterday, so I had it for use today. The rain stopped but the courts were still wet, so an email was sent out delaying play until 10 a.m. I opted to go a bit early and by the time I arrived at Brommer Park at 9:45, five of the courts already had games going.

Chuck, Dave DiBiase, a woman, and Alan Cable on the near court.

Today would be my first day playing with my new Prince Response Pro paddle. We’ll see how it’s goes over time, but so far I don’t notice a huge difference. It seems that it may have less power, but it was an abnormally windy day today, so that changed the dynamic and made it a bit harder to tell. I do like the longer handle, for sure.

The Upset

I saw that John P. had signed up in red in a box with Stuart and Kevin. I added my name to that box. Even though they were signed up in red, I knew I could easily hold my own with that group. As we walked o the court, I asked John, “Should we split up?” I was a bit surprised, but he replied, “No, this is fine.” “Ok!” So we played as a team against Kevin and Stuart. We lead the most of the game—if not all of it—and won by a decisive margin. 11-5 or something. Woah. Shocking.

Another Blast from the Past

Fun today was seeing Bob Hansen again who was the UCSC tennis coach and I took a tennis P.E. class or two from him about 30 years ago. I said hello and introduced myself again. I told him the last time I did seen him was at Derby Park and my other tennis P.E. coach Phil Kaplan had been there at the same time. Bob pointed out Josh, a tall older man, who Bob said had married Phil’s sister Sue. Small world!

Playing with a Big Boy

Kevin and I played a couple of games against Bryan and Binh. Bryan is a great player. He’s all control and angles. Bryan passes up winning shots just to keep the game going. If he were playing seriously, many points would be over quickly. I noticed at least two. Of my dropshots were too high, but he simply dinked them back over. One moment of glory was me getting into a volley battle with him at the net and winning the point. I’ll take my wee little victory! I made too many mistakes, I learned over into Kevin’s side of the court to poach a volley and my winner was instead hit into the net. That’ll impress Bryan—not! Inconsistency. Still.

Car Troubles

Things has gotten quiet and I made my way to the parking lot at 12:15; I had to head to work. When I turned my key in the ignition, the engine turned over, but wouldn’t catch. I tried again, no dice. And again. Drat. Eddie (female) asked if I needed any help, but I told her I’d be ok. I called for roadside assistance. Visor Tom—whose last name I learned today is Brandow—also checked on me. Mark Creed (Maree’s husband) had driven up and was watching the last two games going on. While waiting, I walked up and said hello. I told him about Bryan passing on winners, Mark said, “Bryan likes to play with you, move you around, draw you out of position, and make you look silly.” (Not in a mean way, of course!) When I meantioned my car, Mark offered a jump. 10 minutes later, my car was running.

I drove right to my wife’s and my regular service garage.

My 2004 Volvo getting dropped off for a fix.

When we walked out to my car, the service tech noticed my tournament T-shirt. With a smile, he said, “Pickleball.” I told him I’d been playing nearby at the park. “I haven’t played in many years, but we played it during P.E. in high school.”

The tech called me a Uber and I was on my way home, pickleball gear in tow!


My elbow hurt a couple of times on shots today. I’m not doing slice shots since my brain/body revolt at the thought. I suspect that they know it would hurt. It hurts most when I lock my elbow or straighten my arm then clench my fist.

Overall, ok play today. Not where I want it to be, I made far too many unforced errors. Still, as I’ve been thinking lately, if I were to play a version of myself from a year ago, I’d kick that version’s butt! Gradual but definite improvement.

Number of days on a court: 229
Number of total hours: 626.5

To start at the beginning of this blog click on “1st Post” in the menu above.

Elbow Troubles & New Paddle

Sunday, November 25, 2018 (Court Day #228)

On Friday, also known as “Black Friday”, I bit the bullet and ordered a new paddle. $133. Prince Response Pro, on sale about $40 off. It’ll probably show up in next week. Having only one fully functional paddle is asking for trouble. (Like taking only one pair of shoes to a tournament!)

On Saturday night, I was applying heat to my right elbow via a microwaved rice bag. Certain actions are causing noticeable pain in it. And what else do I do on a Saturday night? Study singles strategy!



I got to Derby Park about 10 to 9. Wayne was already there in his folding seat. With the recent rain, there were a smattering of worms which had set up residence on the courts. I could have used another five minutes on the blower battery! It was a beautiful sunny morning.

Minutes into warmup, it became quite apparent that my right elbow would give me trouble today. It was painful. When the first game started, I was grabbing it between points.

An overflow crowd. Dave Cox, Janet (black), Kim (lt. blue), man, MaryAnn (pattern), local Mike, Robin.

Eric reappeared. I’ve barely seen him in the last couple of months. And he was rusty too! Eric is usually pretty sharp, but the lack of play showed. He and I took on Kim and Cathy—always formidable—and while we initially kept it close, they ran away with the game. Eric made a lot of mistakes and I made more than normal as well. I did have my moments. After one volley battle at the net, a bystander—I think it was Nick—told me, “Great point! If you can go up against Kim, you can go up against anyone!”

Eric and I ended up in a game with Janet and Bruce. They wanted to play together which resulted in unbalanced teams. Eric and I walked away with that one. I think it was 7-0 before they scored a point.

Sitting on the bench waiting for my next game, I asked Stuart about the pain in my elbow. He asked about the muscle on the back of my forearm. I told him the pain is at my elbow. He continued the muscle quizzing. “It’s tennis elbow.” “It started after the tournament last weekend.” Stuart reached into his bag and pulled out a Velcro pressure strap. I slipped it on and used it’s until Stuart left a couple of hours later. It’s hard to tell if it helped or not, but it did seem to hurt less. Correlation doesn’t always equal causation, so I am hesitant, but I’ve seen many people use them over the years so there must be something to them. Alan K. said he used to use one himself.

Visitors Back

Referring to he and his friend, I asked a tall, older man, “Were you two at Brommer on Thanksgiving?” He replied that indeed they were. I pointed out to him Mike and wife Mandy, from Santa Barbara, whom I’d played against on Thanksgiving three days ago at the Brommer Park, and were back playing again but this time at Derby.

Dave Cox asked if I’d play with him against Mike and Mandy. “They are really good.” Sure, I said. And we went on to play four games. Mandy and Mike were targeting Dave. Dave told me, “Hit to her.” I told him, “We hit to her if we want to win. We hit to him if we want to get better.” I don’t know if he caught my drift. In rec play, I want the best challenge I can get. It’s nice to win, but that’s not my goal. I want to get better. While I didn’t target Mike, per se, I didn’t shy away from sending the ball his way.

In  the second game, to end a dink rally, I popped Mike in the shoulder with the ball.  In the third, tit for tat, a shot to my right upper arm: “You got me back!” After the game, I showed him the red mark and the circle on my skin made by the hole in the ball. With a big grin, Mike apologized. I assured him, “It’s all part of the game.” He shared with a big smile, “I does feel good when you get one though, doesn’t it?” Yep!

Dave and I won the first three games. The games were tough. Mike was playing aggressively, poaching shots and encroaching over into Mandy’s area of responsibility. Sometimes, it would work, but it was also resulting in points for us since Mike would be out of position. Dave told Mandy, “If you lose, you know who to blame!” Dave made a couple of errors on the next two points, so I kidded with Mandy, “If we lose, I know who to blame!” We did lose the last game 12-10, but Mike and Mandy are down to earth and fun. Dave has to work on his lobs—when they come in  the middle of a dink rally and are too short, they are point killers.

Jane—who helps coach the girls tennis team at Santa Cruz High School—watched the last game. She interjected from the sideline, “That was a really nice dropshot, Andrew!”

I did ask Mike his rating. He said he’s a 4.0 but played with a good partner in a recent tournament in a 4.0/4.5 bracket and won a silver medal. He’s a good sparring partner. As Mike and Mandy left, I yelled over, “Make sure to come back!”

”We will!”

The last game of the day was Wayne and me against Jane and Dave Cox. Jane played the best that I’ve seen her play. And it wasn’t just Wayne feeding her drives while she was at the net, she made some great shots. She and Dave won a lopsided game. Wayne plays a good drive game, but there is only so far you can  get with almost no soft game. Still, it was fun.


Monday, November 26, 2018 (No Play)

I received an email today from Becky at Paddletek which included a return label for the extra paddle they accidentally sent me. She thanked me for my honesty. I’m a good guy, that’s what I do.

Someone posted in the Facebook Pickleball Forum complaining about Pickleball Central’s Black Friday marketing, saying it’s misleading. Boy. It’s not necessarily deceptive but it certainly plays on a person’s assumptions. Including mine! I didn’t save $41 on the paddle I ordered. I saved $41 on the “bundle” I ordered that included products that I didn’t want. Even though the non-paddle products showed up “0” on the invoice, they were included in determining the total value. Still, it wasn’t a bad deal. The paddle I ordered would have been $15 more ($148) on Plus when I added our club coupon code—crsantacruz—it knocked another $7 off the order total. (And SCPC gets a matching $7!) So, I saved about $20 and got a free bag and some free balls. (In addition to the Dura 40 balls I put on my order.) The thing is I may never use the balls or the bag. We’ll see.

Dave Cox texted about playing together in a tournament in January in San Juan Bautista. It’s moot, I have conflict and am not free that day.

The right elbow is doing a little better today, but is still not good. Last night, I ordered a Tennis Elbow forearm band on eBay. I figure I can use all the help I can get on that front. This may take a while to heal. It’s looking like rain the next few days, but Friday morning may be ok to play. All I can do I should hope.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018 (No Play)

Last night I did some homework reading up on Tennis Elbow. It’s still pretty sore. The horrible thought came to my mind that this might be a permanent thing. I had to give up bagpiping in a pipe band and competing at highland games due to chronic wrist issues—”overuse syndrome” according to the neurologist that tested me.

I went home for lunch and found a box on my front door. I more or less knew what it was. Yep. From Pickleball Central. It’s like an early Christmas!


The thing that I thought was cool was them inserting a brochure promoting the USAPA. In my book, the more pickleball players that are members of the USAPA, the better!

The overall length of the Prince Response Pro is 1/4” to 3/8” shorter than the Tempest. (That’s a surprise.) It’s a bit wider at the middle. The handle is slightly longer. It’s definitely more rounded in shape. All that said, it’s not radically different in overall shape and from across a court, you probably couldn’t tell the difference—other than the face graphics. The other thing is the surface has a different feel. It feels spray coated. The Tempest feels more “ribbed” in terms of texture. I hope the Response still applies spin well.

I hope that I get a chance to play with the new paddle soon—and without elbow pain!

Number of days on a court: 228
Number of total hours: 624

To start at the beginning of this blog click on “1st Post” in the menu above.

Visitors on Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 22, 2018 (Court Day #227)
Thanksgiving Day

It rained yesterday and overnight. Looking out the window, it was overcast and everything was wet. The debate was on in my head. My right elbow is still hurting from the tournament. The courts will be wet. Will there be anyone there? Will it be a waste of 30 minutes of my time to drive out to Brommer Park and find no one there? The sun was peeking out periodically from the clouds. Would it be enough to dry the courts?

Being that I’m a bit of a fanatic, I—of course—opted to drive out and just hope.

I was also concerned that I might be a 5th wheel once I got there. Being a bit of a nerd, I did some calculations in my head on the way. There would be four possible scenarios:

1) I’m the odd man out, the 5th player of an already full court of a privately arranged game. (Worst case.)
2) I’m one of two players sitting out. This is ok. We can drill or do singles.
3) I’m one of three players sitting out. This is ok. We can drill or play “2 on 1”.
4) I’m the fourth to compete a court. (Best case.)

So there is a 3/4 or 75% chance that if there are players there, that I’d be in a good situation and only a 25% chance I’d be a 5th wheel. I realized later, you could also consider the possibility that there would be no one on the court, but even that’s sometimes better than trying to butt into a privately arranged game!

I pulled up just before 10:30 a.m. to only a small handful of cars in the parking lot. Hmmm. But as I drove through the lot, I could see some players on one of the pickleball courts. All right! Fingers crossed!

I grabbed my stuff and walked down to the courts. The best of all worlds, there were exactly three people! It was my lucky day!

Mike, Mandy, and Pete playing as I arrived. Out of town visitors.

Odd. I didn’t recognize any of them. “Need a fourth?”, I called out. “Yeah!” came the enthused response. Perfect. I was happy to see them and they were happy to see me.

Then the question was: “Are they any good?” or “Are they too good?” It’s not much fun when they can’t get it over the net. Or if you are by far the weakest player on the court.


There were Mike and his wife Mandy from Santa Barbara and Pete from San Diego County. Funny that I’d come to the courts and I’d be the only local. Mandy did grow up around here, graduating from Soquel High School the same year that I graduated from Harbor High but moved to Southern California afterward and didn’t come back. And Mike said he has relatives in Santa Cruz County.

Pete and I teamed up and it resulted in fairly balanced teams. (Question answered!) Pete and I won the first two games and lost the third. Mike and Mandy were stacking. It’s not something I’ve ever seen in a pickup game, but they were obviously used to it and only had to make pre-point adjustments a few times. (These were obviously players who take their play a bit more seriously!)

A couple of older men appeared about 11 a.m., drilled then played singles on a court past the divider behind us. They stayed about an hour then left. Around noon, two little kids appeared. I figured they’d head over to the adjacent tennis court. Nope. Next thing I knew, they’d pulled out a couple of wooden pickleball paddles and a ball! Nifty.

We continued played game after game, swapping sides each time, for two hours straight. We probably got in eight games. It was awesome.

At the end of the session, we’d just about split the games between Pete and me versus Mike and Mandy. Pete and I lost the last game 12-10. Like I said, pretty balanced. We are all decent players. The day was a little breezy at times which factored into the games some.


Honestly, I played pretty well overall, but it was a mix of lots of standard vanilla shots, occasional lame shots, and occasional awesome shots. Consistency is the bane of my existence. That and hitting balls that would otherwise sail out. I suppose the promising thing is that I can go toe-to-toe in a hard rally at the net and hold my own. But then I’ll hit a dropshot into the net. And I hit at least three would-be kill shots right into the net—so painful! I have to fix that! Regardless, I was solidly in the mix. I wasn’t weakest and I wasn’t the strongest.

Erne, a First

A first today, Mike successfully executed two Erne shots against me. I never had even one against me before. (One prior attempt, yes.) I don’t see those often at my level, but eventually I’ll need to develop a better defensive strategy for those. Mike was quick, I didn’t even see those coming; just —bam—point over. I figure Mike is a 4.0 player—maybe a 4.5—he was the most skilled on the court today. He might be higher and perhaps was messing around, not playing his most focused. He hit a number of forehand drives into the net and hit a couple shots from between his legs—one of which popped up the ball that I hit for a winner. (He was definitely messing around with that one!) He had very fast serves that were often difficult to return. Those are always good to face. Mike would also hit power shots low over the net. Some I handled just fine, but others, not. I’ll have to start trying to get an Erne. Once I figure out the strategy for pulling one off, I’ll start to understand a better defense.


As we started our last game, about 12:15, a woman came through the gate and sat and watched our game. Soon, the rest of her friends appeared and warmed up in the court vacated by the two older men.

When we finished up our final game and were packing up—I gave Mandy one of my business cards in case they came to town again and wanted to play—when one of the new group came up for a second and she said they’d been hoping to play with us “… though we’d probably get clobbered. We’ve been watching.” (Sounds like we made a good impression!) Our group debated among ourselves for a minute, and we took a step back into the courts, but it looked like they had a good number of people with a game already going, so we turned around and headed to the parking lot instead.

A final round of waves goodbye and I was on the road for home right about 12:30. A great Thanksgiving morning! I’m thankful!

Number of days on a court: 227
Number of total hours: 620

To start at the beginning of this blog click on “1st Post” in the menu above.

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