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Pickball anyone?

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PETER STEIN/NEWS-SUN

Pickleball sounds like a sport that should be played with an oval green object, good enough for eating when the game is over.

Actually, the sport doesn’t involve anything remotely resembling that kind of pickle. In Saturday’s Pickleball Tournament at the CORE Center in Hobbs, it appeared to the casual observer like a game that looked a lot like tennis, played on a basketball court, with a wiffle ball and ping pong rackets.

WTH (what the heck)?

It was a diverse enough activity to bring competitors from Midland, Lubbock, Seminole, Carlsbad, Artesia, and Roswell, as well as Hobbs, among others.

For those players, the sport seemed to make perfect sense. For those who might still be scratching their heads, Hobbs City Manager Manny Gomez offered the following description.

“It’s a combination of badminton, tennis and table tennis,” Gomez said. “It’s a lot like table tennis or ping pong, but you’re on the court.”

And though the sport does not involve a pickle you can eat, there is an important term related to food. Gomez explained that the kitchen is an area of play bordered by a white horizontal line going across the court a few feet away from the net, and the outermost white lines running vertically alongside the court.

Dink is also a key word in pickleball. Several players at Saturday’s tournament, in fact, wore T-shirts playing on the word – ‘Don’t be a dink’, ‘I dink therefore I am’, and ‘Dink responsibly’ among them.

Seems like a word for the WTH file, but Gomez offered a simple explanation.

“The dink is the short game,” he said. “A dink is a short shot.”

There was plenty of dinking going on Saturday, even some under-aged dinking, though most of the dinkers seemed like middle-agers enjoying a late-morning and early-afternoon dink.

Michael Garcia of Hobbs proved that it’s OK to dink and drive – in a wheelchair, that is. Garcia was the lone competitor in Saturday’s tournament to be wheelchair-bound, but the only advantage that afforded him was getting two bounces on the floor before having to hit the ball, instead of one.

“I love it. It’s good competition,” Garcia said early Saturday afternoon between matches. “I like to challenge myself, especially being the only guy in a wheelchair. I challenge myself to go up against able-bodied people. And I tell them not to go easy on me.”

Garcia finds pickleball a rewarding experience.

“The workout,” he said, “the conditioning and the fun of being around people who are competitive just like me.”

Jake and Trisha Shelley rode up from Carlsbad to compete as a doubles duo. They stopped to talk about their pickleball experience after finishing a match, as they were on their way out for a break, apparently living by the motto, ‘dink before you speak.’

“It was her first tournament,” Jake said of Trisha.

The Shelleys tried to have some fun for the occasion. “We got matching t-shirts,” Trisha said.

It wasn’t just couples participating. In some cases it was friends, in others it was different generations of the same family. An example of the latter was Suzanne Huggins and her son Ryan Huggins of Hobbs.

“I’ve been coming to the CORE for a long time, watching some of the others play,” Suzanne Huggins said. “I usually do laps, so I decided to try this out. I used to play tennis, so it wasn’t totally foreign.”

Ryan Huggins is fairly well-known for playing tennis. He was part of the Hobbs High School boys tennis team that finished as a state runner-up in 2021. And yet, it was the elder Huggins who got this family duo on the court.

“I dragged him out,” Suzanne Huggins said.

And how does pickleball compare to tennis? For Suzanne Huggins, it’s a bit better.

“At my age,” she said, “not having to run as far.”

She wasn’t the only one who felt that way on Saturday.

“I’m 57 years old,” Gomez said, “and I’m able to compete.”

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