In a pickle These seniors love the sport that’s taken area by stormPublished Aug 28, 2013 at 9:35 am (Updated Aug 28, 2013 at 9:35 am)
T.J. Morris (foreground) of Bethel Park and Bill Berner of North Strabane play a game of pickleball at Morgan Park.
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Bud Estacio of Bridgeville and George D’Angelo of Greentree play a game of pickleball at Morgan Park.
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South Fayette Township is the latest area in the South Hills to jump aboard the pickleball bandwagon.
Tom Byrd, or “T-Byrd” of South Fayette first learned of and played the sport while in Florida. He came back to the region and started playing in Upper St. Clair and Bethel because both communities have pickleball courts.
Byrd, 71, thought South Fayette needed its own courts and wanted something especially geared toward senior citizens. He reached out to South Fayette Parks and Recreation Director Butch Truitt to see if there was a space available to play pickleball.
“It was all Tom’s idea,” Truitt said of bringing pickleball to the township.
Last week at South Fayette’s Morgan Park, seniors from the area participated in what Byrd called a “semi-invitational” tournament against seniors from the Cranberry area. He called it the “North vs. South” tournament. Nearly 30 seniors participated in the tournament.
Pickleball is a sport that is played on a badminton court with the net lowered to 34 inches at the center. The sport is played with a perforated plastic baseball similar to a whiffle ball and players use wood or composite paddles.
Boundary lines have been painted on the tennis courts in Morgan Park and Fairview Park. There are a total of five courts upon which people can play the game in the township. The courts are reserved for the 50 and over pickleball crowd on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“We don’t like this game. We are all addicted to the game,” Byrd said. He joked, “It’s the only thing that allows us to be young again.”
“It’s an up-and-coming sport and a good seniors game,” said T.J. Morris, 64, of Bethel Park, who participated in the tournament. Morris has been playing pickleball for about seven months.
Bill Berner, 69, of North Strabane has been playing for more than a year. He said he enjoys the sport and added, it’s a good workout because when he’s finished playing he’s “soaking wet and smiling.”
After hearing about the sport from her sister who lives in Texas, Linda Coholich has played the game for about a year. She even receieved pickleball gear from her husband two Christmases ago and has been playing ever since.
“It’s the first sport we can actually play together,” Coholich said.
“It’s a great group of people and a really social event,” added Iris Partyka of Mt. Lebanon.
“We’re hoping we can create enough interest,” in pickleball to gain even more places to play, Byrd said. “We really need a place to play in the winter.”
For now, Byrd and Truitt are busy organizing clinics in South Fayette. The clinics are set for 10 a.m. Sept. 3; 7 p.m. Sept. 5; and 10 a.m. Sept. 7.
The South Hills Jewish Community Center will also hold pickleball clinics for seniors, families and children starting Sept. 10. Clinics will be held the second Tuesday of the month starting at noon. Special times for seniors include Sept. 15 and 29. Starting in October seniors can play the first and third Sunday of each month from 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. Children’s days are Sept. 15, Oct. 6, Nov. 3 and Dec. 1 from noon to 2 p.m. Family days are Sept. 29, Oct. 20, Nov. 17 and Dec. 15 from noon - 2 p.m.
Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair Township also have pickleball courts available for all ages.