“Holding Court” – Stonewall Sports Twin Cities Swears the Best Thing To Do With a Ball is Pickle It

Photos courtesy of Stonewall Sports Twin Cities
Photos courtesy of Stonewall Sports Twin Cities

If you were to find yourself, upon waking from a sleepwalk, softly aiming your dink toward your neighbor’s kitchen, you might think that you were re-living that one weekend misspent with Juan-or-José-or-maybe-Dirk in that one Tijuana timeshare during that one spring break, and, come to think of it, you might well be doing just that, bu-ut…alternately, by softly aiming your dink toward your neighbor’s kitchen, you might also be engaged in that grand expression of athletic relativism known as pickleball.  

Pickleball is “a fun sport enjoyed by all ages and skill levels,” according to the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board.  More specifically, you might think of pickleball as tennis on heavy doses of lithium…or volleyball on Valium plus rackets, minus socks, heavy on the volley and light on the ball.  

Ultimately, it’s probably most accurate to think of pickleball as an economy-sized game of ping-pong where the players actually stand on the table while ratcheting with rackets, exchanging lobs and drives and dinks–strategic shots strategically aimed at an opponent’s No Volley Zone, sometimes known as the kitchen.  Where defining pickleball is concerned, perhaps the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board puts it best:  “The game combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong and can be played indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized hard surface court.”

What the game is, is one thing…how it’s played is something else.  As the Park & Recreation Board puts it, “[Pickleball] involves players using a paddle to hit a plastic ball with holes over a net in singles or doubles play.”  Yes, you read that right–offense and defense are perpetrated by hitting the ball over a horizontal net with a paddle and not with a fermented cucumber.  

Despite this bit of flagrantly false representation, pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the United States, as measured by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (who use membership fees to keep track of such things).  Beginning its official existence in 1965 as a kids’ game plied within the backyards of Washington state, pickleball’s current popularity is mostly attributed its anyone-can-play inclusiveness.  

This notion lines quite neatly with mission of Stonewall Sports Twin Cities, a community-based athletic league whose mission is “to bring our LGBTQ+ community and allies together to create a fun, inclusive environment through recreational sports and social activities, and work toward positive change for each other and those in need.”

It might be that the local chapter of Stonewall Sports recently chose pickleball as its newest sport…or it might be that pickleball chose Stonewall Sports Twin Cities.  “Pickleball started when [Stonewall Sports Twin Cities Board member] Thu Danh came to the board during one of its monthly meetings to discuss adding it as our sixth sport,” recounts Cameron Bartch, the Communications and Marketing Director for Stonewall Sports Twin Cities.  “At the time of his suggestion, it was becoming wildly popular across the country.”

The Stonewall Sports Twin Cities’ website elucidates: “This sport has increased in popularity over the pandemic and decided this would be the next greatest addition for Stonewall.”  The Twin Cities proved a microcosm of this national trend.  Its first local season began in the Summer of 2022, which, as remembered by Bartch, “helped our inaugural season set to ninety-six people and our winter season grew to 140 players.”

Last summer’s contests took place in North Minneapolis’s Lucky Shots Pickleball Club.  This venue hosted games that were categorized as Social and Competitive by the league (and, respectively, Pretend and Real by Competitive players).  Observes Bartch, “Pickleball definitely has been a popular addition to our organization, and we see it continuing to grow in the future.”  

Speaking of that future, pickleballs don’t grow on trees, so sponsors serve a vital function.  “For businesses, we are always looking for more sponsors and expand our partnerships across across the Twin Cities,” Bartch declares.  “Our Stonewall Sports Twin Cities Sponsorship packages are Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Rainbow.”

One such benefactor is Luther Bloomington Subaru whose brand-new support of Stonewall Sports Twin Cities’ pickleball program is an extension of larger corporate policy.  Notes sales manager Noah Joseph, “Bloomington Subaru strives to create an atmosphere where the principals of our Love Promise are respected and practiced by all colleagues.”

The support is, naturally enough, not lost on Stonewall Sports.  “We’re grateful for Luther Bloomington Subaru interest in supporting a local LGBTQ+ organization as pickleball continues to grow in the Twin Cities,” Bartch declares, “We look forward to this partnership.” 

Something like the back-and-forth of pickleball, the action between sponsor and sponsee is interactive, as described by Joseph: “We want our business to be reflective of our country and our customers – where people of all races, genders and sexual orientation are welcomed and embraced for who they are and have the opportunity to reach their full potential.  We are eager to serve our colleagues, customers and partners.”

The real world nuts-and-bolts notwithstanding, there’s something more personal at play for Cameron Bartch who says, “For me, I have met so many lifelong friends from joining Stonewall.  It really becomes a family.”


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