Adventures of Andrew Lenz and a Yellow Ball

Month: December 2023 (Page 1 of 3)

Last Play of 2023

Sunday, December 31, 2023 (Court Day #617)

In the Santa Cruz Sentinel this morning, they had a 4-page section recapping the best photos of 2023. A big surprise, an aerial photo of the recent Newman camp made the list . . . at the top of page 2!


My son Nicholas is in town for New Year’s weekend so he joined me and my friend Todd to watch the Raiders and Colts game. With a loss, the Raiders would be eliminated from the playoffs. The Colts wouldn’t be eliminated either way, just their odds would be over twice as good a win. As it turned out, the Colts won by three points. Todd‘s wife Karen had me some really yummy rocky road which Todd had brought as a dessert. Between chips, sausage slices, pizza, and rocky road, I was far from hungry after the game, which finished up shortly after 1 o’clock.


I sent out a text about 1:15 p.m. asking if anyone wanted to play pickleball this afternoon. Paul Swiencicki and René Baker both responded. Paul said he was heading over to Brommer and René said that she was already there. So that’s where I headed!


I arrived at Bromer at 1:45 p.m. Pretty quickly, I got into some games. I barely had time to hang up my backpack before Hemie called over and asked if I wanted to join their game as a fourth.

The first game was Pauly and me against Hemie and Spencer. It was a good warm-up game. I started out slow but then my game tightened up and Pauly and I went on to win.

I went on to have various games over my three hour stretch, including Paul S. Folks were pretty good about moving off courts when they were done.

Spencer made a comment mid-game about how my serves land and stay very low and that you almost have to dig with your paddle to return them. Nice to hear. Paul complimented me, “That was a nice roll volley.” We were all at the net and I’d dropped the ball—using a roll volley—at Spencer’s left toe.

Played a few games with René and she was very complimentary. I also overheard her telling Spencer he shouldn’t feel bad since I have some of the fastest hands that she’s ever seen.

I got Hemie, Spencer, and René on my slice service returns—rally over! Spencer eventually got them figured out and made a return to win the rally off of my slice. He was proud of himself—as he well should be in making adjustments and learning how to deal with those.

The last two or three games were a battle against either the sun, or shortly after, fading light. I was hitting my drops pretty well until those last few games.

My last game was René and myself against Sean and Spencer. We lost that game 8-11. Sean is very nice backhand crosscourt dinking mechanics. He’s very consistent with that.

People started to clear out and the sun was setting when we wrapped up the last game at 4:45 p.m.

Overall, I felt ok about my play. Not stellar, but not bad. A decent way to end a year.

Out my departing car window . . . sunset at Brommer.

When I got home, I crawled into the spa that we had installed in our backyard about a year ago and then later iced my right knee. My knee doesn’t feel too bad, and that is very promising.

Number of days on a court: 617
Number of total hours: 2,692
Number of paid coaching hours: 8

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

Drilling and New SCPC Role

Tuesday, December 26, 2023 (Court Day #616)

I was off from work today. Our family business is closed for “Boxing Day”, the day after Christmas. Basically, it’s an excuse to recover from holiday retail and spend more time with family. My wife was in her 1st grade classroom prepping—teachers still work some during their holidays from school—and so things were quiet at my house. I blasted out to the pickleball text group to see if anyone wanted to play this afternoon. The only one who expressed interest was Conner, so we set up a time to drill.


A woman asked to join the Santa Cruz Pickleball Facebook group. The account looked sketchy and I was going to delete her, but Brenden had approved her already. She posted, exactly copying a question posed in the same thread a few hours earlier and already answered—super suspicious. I replied to her question asking where she lived. No reply.

Then she posted about a “gift she’d received for Christmas” and shared a link to on-demand illegal copies of “Santa Cruz Pickleball” T-shirts. Uh . . . NO! I deleted the posted and banned her. The problem was the illegal T-shirts are still available. I sent an email to Mark and Jackie (president and VP of the club) and told them about it and gave them the link to dispute the shirt.

Drilling at Derby

Conner and I met at Derby Park at 3:45 p.m. As I approached the courts, I saw a friend’s mom, Lilia, and two of her sons. She said she had just played pickleball for the first time and really enjoyed it.

There was only one empty court and it was a city net so I didn’t have to go back and drag my portable net from the car. Amusingly, the net did have a hole in it just big enough for a ball and our ball did manage to go through it several times over the next hour!

Connor and I worked primarily on dinking and drop shots. We also worked on resets with one person driving the ball hard at the other from the transition zone.

A thing I noticed was that Conner was able to take a lot of my dinks out of the air. He still had to hit up—that’s the goal, make your opponent hit up—but it wasn’t off the bounce. Something to maybe for me to work on.

We also played a game and a half of skinny singles. In the first game, we shifted on even scores. In the second, we shifted on odd scores. So, sometimes we’d be diagonal and sometimes we’d be directly across from each other. In the first game, I took an 8-0 lead, but Conner came back and won. It was a couple big runs of points by each of us.

It’s kind of funny, but I had more fun drilling with Conner than I did doing games with family members yesterday. It was just that the skill levels were so lopsided yesterday, the rallies were very short unless I went way out of my way to make shots easy for them. Today, it was much more balanced.

Conner shared appreciation for my two ATPs during drilling. ATPs are an easy decision when you have very little choice because the ball is so wide!

Conner said that his foot was bothering him so we switched back to net drills—there is less moving involved—then soon after we called it a day at about the one hour mark. I felt it was time well spent. Conner recorded himself during our drill sessions. That’s definitely dedication, I should’ve thought of bringing my sports camera. Next time.

At a quarter to 5 p.m., with sunset looming, there were four games going on at Derby. Yes, pickleball is getting more popular!

Conner balances a ball on his paddle after our drill session.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023 (No Play)

Mark Dettle wrote me back about the illicit club T-shirts. Not the answer I was expecting, but Mark said he was taking me up on my offer to assume the position of “Secretary” for the club and my first duty would be to resolve the T-shirt problem! Ha, ha! Key job for a leader—delegate! It seems when I suggested something to the board, it’s often, “Great, go ahead, take it on yourself and do it!” Like when I suggested we should have a local tournament again. “Great, go ahead, take it on yourself and do it!” The trick is bandwidth. I have only so many free hours in a week and in a month and a lot of them tend to be hours when I’m tired from work!

Brother Pickleball

At 11:42 a.m., my brother John texted saying that he played pickleball this morning with a friend of his, Deborah. That’d be his fourth pickleball outing. I think he’s starting to get hooked on the game.


A box arrived from CORE pickleball today, from the order I placed on December 19. It was a dozen of their high-end CORE balls and a dozen of their cheaper Impact balls. I’m interested to see how they play.

Thursday, December 28, 2023 (No Play)

Three more CORE boxes showed up today. A regulation-sized portable net, a smaller 10-foot wide practice net, and a rolling cart for ball storage during lessons. All with “Made in China” on the boxes. Not a surprise. I’ll open them up when I get enough time.

There’s a bit of a fortuitous twist, or call it divine providence. Out our sliding glass door is our patio. We had the backyard redone about a year ago, with new concrete. I went out and measured the blocks and they are exactly seven feet. I had a sudden recollection that I’d done this before. Regardless, the dividing lines in the concrete are exactly the size of the non-volley zone—yes, seven feet! Perfect for my new practice net! Granted, the concrete isn’t perfectly smooth, but I suspect it’ll get the job done. I just need someone to dink with! Maybe my neighbor around the corner and down the street . . .

My back patio. And our feisty young corgi Pepper.

Number of days on a court: 616
Number of total hours: 2,689
Number of paid coaching hours: 8

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

Christmas Time 2023

Sunday, December 24, 2023 (No Play)

I worked today for about 5 hours. I don’t usually work Sundays—the store is normally closed—but Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday and so I opted to take pity on last-minute shoppers and have our family business open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with volunteer staff. It was a pretty steady flow of customers, though not crazy. (For those of you keeping track, yes, it’s only four hours from 11 to 3, but there’s time before and after a store is actually open that work has to get done!)

Relative Pickleball

My brother John texted me a video of his kids opening up a gift, a pickleball set. Two standard paddles, two mini kids’ paddles, and some balls. They were excited!

A rather blurry still-capture of the video. You can see some paddles!

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is when my extended family gets together for dinner and gifts. In my lifetime, it was originally held at my mom’s mom’s (great-grandmother’s) house in town when I was a toddler, then it moved to my mom’s mom’s (grandmother’s) house, then decades later, to my mom’s house where it was again this year. We had a “secret Santa” gift exchange and my brother John had me. He got me a “Dink Responsibly” cap along with a travel mug with “Tears of My Pickleball Opponents” printed on it. He also included a bag of a dozen USAPA approved pickleballs from a brand called “Vigel” that I’ve never heard of.

Monday, December 25, 2023 (Court Day #615) Christmas

Christmas morning brought a really nice breakfast and presents. My wife and daughter had picked out a new PBAW pickleball backpack for me. (I’m not sure I’d heard of PBAW before.) I’ve been content with my current backpack, but I have had to do several hand sewing repairs on it. This new backpack has a 4-balls-sized pocket on one side and an assortment of pockets, including a vented/mesh pocket at the bottom for a pair of shoes. I probably won’t be using the shoe pocket except for tournaments. A minor but clever feature is a built-in plastic hook at the top for hanging the backpack on a chain-link fence. Nice!

New pickleball backpack all loaded up!

Relative Pickleball

About a week ago my sister-in-law has suggested that we play pickleball on Christmas Day when she and your family came to visit Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, the plan changed in the becoming much later in the day. Charlotte and Nicolas expressed interest in playing so I also invited my brother John to come. 

The trick was having enough paddles. I had sent one to New Mexico for my daughter Charlotte. The only other paddle I had sported autographs, and I was not too keen to use it. But I didn’t have much choice as it was the one I had to make up our foursome.


It was shortly after 2:30 p.m. when we made our way to Derby Park. I brought a portable net however, it turned out that it was unnecessary as only two of the four city nets occupied when we arrived.

I split up my paddles, keeping the special “autographs paddle” for myself. Aside from not wanting to damage the autographs, I realized/remembered that it was delaminating and made for some wimpy shots.

It wasn’t until halfway through the session that I realized that I also had the special reduced-size Focus training paddle. I switched to that—better training and no risk to the autographs!

A woman came over and asked about my children’s “Tillamook” cheese T-shirts. Brooke is her name and she lived in Tillamook, Oregon and couldn’t help but come over and ask. Brooke was there with her son Charlie and her husband Adam. I talked to Adam while Brooke was chatting with the rest of our group. Adam said they started playing about six months ago. I asked if they play at Derby on Sundays and he said they do. I told him that my site coordinator duties would be resuming January 7 and maybe I’d see them out on the courts.

Me, son Nicholas, brother John, and daughter Charlotte.

Christmas Dinner

My sister-in-law Liz and family arrived shortly before 5 p.m. We all hung out, had dinner, then opened presents. I got a pair of socks…

I better put my feet up often while wearing them!

Liz really wanted me to open the pickleball trivia game that they’d gotten us. I told her husband Steve that I’d probably know 90% of the questions. There were A, B, C, and D as possible answers or “true or false” . . . but before she got to those, I’d blurt out the answers: “20×44!”, “7!”, “Time allowed to serve the ball!”, “24 inches”, “False”. We went through about a dozen cards and I got them all right.

Then she pulled a card from the a different section. “Which couple got married on the court and were the first tournament directors for the USAPA Nationals?”

“Uhhhhh…” I had no idea. Piper, my niece, carefully just showed me the possible answers on the card and I still had no idea. I guessed the names that seemed most familiar but I got it wrong. Liz was ready to move onto other things. Maybe it was a good thing too, I’m not sure how I would have done if the rest of the questions were like that! Ha!

Number of days on a court: 615
Number of total hours: 2,688
Number of paid coaching hours: 8

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

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