Relishing Pickleball: Pickleball Hitting the Major Leagues

David Zapatka

The Seattle Mariners hosted “Pickleball Night” on Sept. 10. Group tickets helped raise money for the Seattle Metro Pickleball Association. Valley resident and Seattle native, Riley Newman, threw out the first pitch for his hometown team. Riley grew up a Mariners fan, and this was a dream come true for him. Riley is one of the best all-round athletes in all of pickleball. His throw split the plate in two in front of 45,000+ fans to get the game started. Search online to see the video.

Riley and his sister, Lindsey, have won numerous men’s, women’s, and mixed national championships at the pro level.

Billionaire Melinda Gates, celebrities Ellen DeGeneres, Leonardo DiCaprio, Amanda Peet, Mathew Perry, George Clooney, Giuliana and Bill Rancic, Doug Ellin, the Kardashians, Jillian Michaels, and tennis stars Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi have been seen playing our sport. Country Pop phenom Maren Morris recently set up a make-shift court while on tour to play.

Major League Pickleball has arrived. High-profile individuals have invested in teams including Drew Brees, former New Orleans Saints quarterback; Jim Buss, co-owner of the Los Angeles Lakers; Marc Lasry, Milwaukee Bucks owner; James Blake, former tennis pro; and Lebron James, Draymond Green, and Kevin Love, NBA superstars. Even author Brené Brown has gotten in on the ownership of a team. The Bucks hosted pickleball night Oct. 29 when they took on the Atlanta Hawks.

Major League Pickleball plans to have 16 teams compete in six tournaments across the country for more than $2 million in 2023. They expect there will be 40 million pickleball players across the country by 2030, a huge market for their league.

Why are they investing money in our sport? It’s the fastest-growing sport in our country and around the world. Sponsors are falling over themselves to get involved. Sporting goods companies are fighting to catch up and get their products into our market. International sporting goods giant, Joola, with offices in Germany, Brazil, China, and the U.S., has entered the sport and sponsors world No. 1 Ben Johns. Knowing Joola from the table tennis world, I tried their highly promoted table tennis-shaped pickleball paddle and love it. It has fantastic control while maintaining power.

Reader Gil writes, “Dave, I hit a drop shot into the NVZ (non-volley zone) during a very windy day. The backspin brought the ball back to my side of the net, into my NVZ. No one touched the ball to return my drop shot nor did we return the ball. Who scores the point?”

You do! One of the opponents must hit the ball before it bounces a second time for the ball to still be in play. This is the one time you can reach over the net to hit a ball.

Have a question about pickleball? Want to know more about the sport, the rules, equipment, or have some pickilicious news you would like to share with our pickleball community? Email David Zapatka at [email protected].