Funds are raised for pickleball courts at Greencastle Playground

Google “pickleball” and these titles appear:

“Move…everything?” Here Comes Major League Pickleball” from New York Times.

“Why pickleball is the hottest sport right now” ESPN.

“LeBron James could take pickleball – yes, pickleball – to the next level” Time.

For local sports fans, the headline is that their fundraiser to convert the two decaying tennis courts at the south end of Greencastle’s Jerome R. King Playground in four pickleball courts is beyond the halfway point.

Fundraiser announced:Popular pickleball could be coming to King Playground

At David H. Martin Excavating:Franklin County CareerTech students receive hands-on career lessons

They have received $12,000 since the fundraiser began in mid-summer and want to wrap up the fundraiser and reach their goal of $20,000 by the end of the year. Combined with a matching donation of $20,000 from an anonymous donor, this achievement will allow for innovation in May and the courts should be ready to play from mid-June to the end of June.

They hope to inaugurate the new courts with a tournament, according to Fred Heefner, who along with Dave Bonebrake is spearheading the fundraiser. They also plan to organize a club for the game which combines elements of tennis, table tennis and badminton.

Heefner and his wife, Tammy, are among the players who are dating Township Antrim Community Parkwhere the tennis courts are also lined for the game of pickleball.

This isn’t ideal, as tennis courts are twice the size of the area needed for pickleball and players spend too much time chasing the ball.

One of the attractions of fast pickleball is a compact playing area, which makes it suitable for all ages, including the likes of 86-year-old Dwight Morgan.

Tammy Heefner was at Antrim Courts with friends not long ago when Morgan walked up and asked, ‘Does anyone have time to drink with me?’

Dinking is like a volley, with players hitting the ball back and forth across the net.

Morgan is a retired pastor, who has served the Fellowship of Bible Churches in the Hagerstown area, as well as missionary niches in Germany and Ireland with his wife of 65 years, Lynda. They live on East Weaver Road, not far from the park.

Dwight Morgan, 86, plays pickleball at the Township Antrim Community Park.

He picked up a pickleball paddle at age 82, playing with a friend at the Hagerstown YMCA. He plays once or twice a week on the courts of the Chambersburg Aquatic Center. If it’s less than 45 degrees or if it’s raining, players move inside the Chambersburg YMCA.

Some of the other people who play at Chambersburg are from Greencastle, and Morgan thinks they’ll be happy to use the new Jerome R. King Playground courts.

The closer the better… it’s much more convenient for me to play Greencastle,” Morgan said.

There is a core of 10 to 12 people who regularly play at Antrim Township Community Park, according to the Heefners.

“We went out a few weeks ago and both tennis courts were full of pickleball players. This has never happened before,” Tammy Heefner said.

There are also courts in New Franklin, Pennsylvania, and Leitersburg, Maryland, according to Morgan, who said, “It’s growing by leaps and bounds. It’s a lifelong sport – anyone can play if they want to get out there and get around.

In addition to physical fitness, Morgan enjoys the camaraderie between pickleball players he has found locally and in other states on his travels.

“Nobody ever said, ‘You’re too old,'” he joked.

He found easy camaraderie on the pitch during a recent visit with a reporter to Antrim Township Community Park, where they had dinner with Greencastle-Antrim high school students Austin Simmons and Michael Pugliano.

It didn’t take long for Pugliano to realize that he and his father, Tony, had played a friendly match with Morgan and another man a few months ago.

Austin Simmons, left, and Michael Pugliano, both aged 17 at Greencastle-Antrim Secondary School, play pickleball at Antrim Township Community Park.

Simmons’ father, Jimmie, has been playing pickleball for about three years, the teenager has been playing for a month or two, and now he’s hooked.

“It’s addicting,” Simmons said, adding that he played four or five days last week for two hours straight.

The two 17-year-olds and Morgan also discussed their paddles and how much they cost.

Pickleball is a fairly inexpensive sport, and a player can get started with paddles and balls — lightweight and similar to wiffle balls — for around $80, Tammy Heefner said.

“Anyone interested in learning the game can also contact one of us to find out when we’ll be there and we’ll be happy to show them the basics of the games,” said Fred Heefner, adding that they also have learned a lot by watching youtube videos.

Jerome R. King Playground is a 501c3 non-profit organization, so donations are tax deductible.

Donations, with “pickleball” in the memo line, can be mailed to PO Box 2, 240 N. Carlisle St., Greencastle, Pennsylvania 17225.

For more information, call Heefner at 223-205-7965, Bonebrake at 240-675-8827 or Lon Barkdoll, Chairman of the Board, at 717-597-8526.

Shawn Hardy is a reporter for Gannett’s Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania – Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro, and Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has over 35 years of journalism experience. Contact her at [email protected]

Harold B. McConnell