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Picklemania at the OKC Life Time

Posted on January 28, 2023 by under Pickleball, Travel.    

When Chris Wilson asked me to play 50/50 with him in Picklemania at the Oklahoma City Life Time location, I said yes without hesitation for several reasons.

  • Chris was my first ever tournament partner and I love playing with him.
  • I love tournaments in Oklahoma because they are so well-organized, well-run, and they always provide snacks. Picklemania even included lunch.
  • I welcome any excuse to travel to Oklahoma and hang out with all my OK pickleball friends because they are fantastic.

Obviously, I like to make the most of my trips so I didn’t want to play in just one event so I had to secure partners for women’s and mixed doubles also. I originally asked my friend Ramon Lozano but he turned me down because he didn’t think the competition would be worthwhile (because at the time I asked him, I think around November time frame, none of the upper divisions players had signed up). He encouraged me to find another partner because he didn’t want me to miss out. Luckily, I met this guy named Casey Dominguez in Tulsa when I did my DUPR #DoubleDip during Thanksgiving weekend. Casey is from Arkansas but happened to be at La Fortune for the DUPR event also.

Anyway, Ramon was looking at the men’s group and decided he could team up with Casey and play in the 5.0 division. So then he needed a partner. He asked our friend Katie Merrill several times who I also asked to play with me in women’s but at the time she was thinking she would take a break in January. Anyway, while the three of us were in Kansas City for the DUPR Teams event at Northland Racquet Club, Jenny Marcos asked Katie to play also. Jenny is amazing and one simply does not pass on an opportunity like this one so obviously it was a sign that Katie was meant to play. So the two people I had originally asked to play who didn’t plan on playing actually ended up playing and together.

Honestly, this could have caused a lot of drama but, because I am me, it wasn’t a big deal. I managed to find other partners to play with and so it all worked out great for everyone. There were no hurt feelings or damaged friendships and, as far as I could tell, everyone had a great time.

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Chris and I both took the day off because were were playing on Friday afternoon. I ended up riding down to OKC with him since Brian had to work. Once Brian got off work, he picked Saki up from the house and headed down.

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Here are a couple of pics from Friday.

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We didn’t do great but I always have a great time playing. The one thing I’ve learned about myself is that my game continues to evolve. Now that I am working on offense, I am less patient and sometimes initiate speed ups prematurely. I think the key is being patient when needed and starting firefights at the appropriate times. I’m learning and growing so I really can’t complain.

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Also, side note, the teams we played against were pretty amazing so I really don’t feel bad for how we performed. I think we did well, all things considered.

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I mean, check out these DUPRs.

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I feel like we played in the correct division but were definitely out-gunned.

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Saturday was gender doubles day. I teamed up with my friend Cindy Egan. We didn’t do as well as we’d hoped but wasn’t really out of the norm for me because I always struggle in women’s doubles. Also, we had to play against some young, very athletic women. It was a tough pool. Oklahoma players are legit.

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Here are some of my favorite pictures from Sunday, mixed doubles day.

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This is my friend Antonio Lares, who I first met about a year and a half ago when a group of us went down to the Oklahoma City Chicken N Pickle for Patrick Smith and Lauren Stratman’s pickleball clinic.

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Katie and Ramon on mixed doubles day, with me and Casey in the background. Katie and Ramon played in 5.0 division while Casey and I played in 4.5 so we didn’t have to play against one another.

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Here’s a close up of me and Casey in the background.

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I had so much fun playing with Casey on Sunday. There were five teams in our group and we lost to only one team and only by one measly point.

I was having such a great run. I hit several inside outs (five in one game). I usually say “Yup!” whenever I hit a winner and Casey said I was saying “Yup!” so early, not even before the ball lands but sometimes as I am actually hitting the ball.

I honestly think we could have medaled (maybe even won Gold), we just got a little over confident. And then, we didn’t realize we were still in it so Casey went to the locker room and took a shower a little prematurely. Tanner had to go get him back out so we could play for bronze.

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We ended up losing that match against Deana Holman and Isaiah McAllister.

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This is my friend Tanner who came to hang out Friday, Saturday, and Sunday even though he wasn’t playing. He gets the credit for a lot of these photos. He’s was a true MVP actually because he took care of EVERYONE.

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Tanner looked up DUPRs for all the teams in the various brackets, refilled my water several times, tracked down gum for Katie when she needed it most, took pictures and videos for all of us so we could have some awesome clips from the weekend, and even took one for team and went into the locker room to get Casey back out for our bronze match. He truly went above and beyond.

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Ramon, Casey, and Casey’s wife Kayla.

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One last selfie with Katie as she was getting ready to fly back home to Tulsa.

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Anyway, no pics of Brian because he was tied up on Saturday helping his dad replace their hot water heater and then, on Sunday, we had to check out of the hotel so he and Saki went and hung out at his mom and dad’s house until I was done. Of course, we ended up taking a little bit longer than I thought because we ended up playing one more game which we didn’t realize we had to; thus, Casey ended up having to shower twice. Oops!

Ironically, I told myself I didn’t want any more medals (except for some specific ones that are on my list for this year — US Open and Nationals) so I pretty much achieved my goal. LOL. I did come away with a few new friends which are more valuable than any medals I could bring home.

I guess that pretty much catches us up. Until next time, GNG.

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Black Bear Diner

Posted on January 24, 2023 by under Food and Drink, Travel.    

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None of us had to play in the morning on Saturday so Chris Wilson introduced us to a diner he discovered on a previous trip to OKC. I went with the group (Cindy Egan, Karen Fox, and Chris) without Brian because he had committed to helping his dad replace their water heater so he left early in the morning to do that.

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The diner has a cute, bear-themed interior decor.

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Here are pics of our food.

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The food is decent and the place is cute so I can see why Chris likes it. I wish Brian could have joined us. Perhaps on the next trip down there, he can.

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The other unique thing about this place is the fun sayings on the backs of their chairs. Here are some examples…

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They also have a fun little gift shop.

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This restaurant is a chain but it’s definitely worth checking out next time you are in the Oklahoma City area. Till next time, GNG.

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The Sandbox

Posted on January 23, 2023 by under Food and Drink, Pickleball.    

I finally had the chance to check out the Sandbox in Derby, KS. Food and pickleball are two of my favorite things so much like, Chicken N Pickle, this place is a winning combination. The hourly court reservation fees are similar to CNP during prime time ($40 per hour per court) but slightly less before 5 PM (just $15 per hour, instead of $20). The advantages of Sandbox (besides being $5 less during certain times) are…

  • There’s more court availability right now because fewer people know about it or know how to book online.
  • It provides us with another indoor option because there are very few indoor court facilities with outdoor court surface.
  • It serves an under-served area and makes pickleball more accessible for those who live South of Wichita.
  • The food is actually not bad.

Here are some pictures of the food we tried when we were there last week during Martin Luther King Day. Gotta love the holidays!

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Of course the chicken tenders and fries were Brian’s plate! LOL.

I put together a video playlist on YouTube of games that were played at the Sandbox last weekend (MLK weekend). I played some mixed doubles rec there on Sunday with Jonathan Maugans, Jared Smart, and Lori Below; and also held a DUPR King and Queen of Courts event on Monday morning.

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Molly Sager and Mitch Spencer reigned supreme and were our top female and male players for that session. We played 7 rounds of mixed doubles and 3 rounds of gender doubles and Molly only lost 1 game the entire time. I don’t remember how many Mitch lost but he had the winning record on the male side.

I know this post is about the Sandbox but that day was a little crazy. Since I was off work, I decided to schedule multiple plays. In addition to the King and Queen of Courts at Sandbox, I had a 3:00 PM King of Courts and 5:30 PM Queen of Courts at the Pickle Club. Needless to say, I learned my lesson and I’m never doing that again. It just got to be too much to keep track of payments (and refunds, with people dropping last minute). And, I had a stressful time trying to find fill ins.

But I digress… the Sandbox is a great option for all you pickleball lovers. CNP has more courts and I like the set up there better and it’s closer to my house but with the lack of court availability at CNP, the Sandbox is looking more and more appealing despite the longer drive. Go check it out for yourself.

Until next time, GNG.

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Lesson with Kas at NPC

Posted on January 17, 2023 by under Life.    

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Finally got to check out Newton Pickleball Club when my friends Janelle, Karen, and I took a “play with a pro” type lesson with Kasandra Gehrke while she was in Wichita conducting her Empowher pickleball camps at Chicken N Pickle.

Each of us took turns playing with Kas and all the while receiving nuggets of wisdom to help us take our pickleball game to the next level. Kas was informative and helpful and I thoroughly enjoyed the time we got to spend with her. But what I loved most of all was we got to have this experience in a private setting.

Laurie’s house is amazing and her backyard pickleball setup is probably the best I’d ever seen. It was the perfect setting for our lesson with Kas. It’s also a great party house and it’s no surprise that it is super popular with the picklers. It was cold and windy that day but I bet it’s a fantastic hangout spot all summer long.

Thank you to Laurie for opening her house up for Kas’ private group lessons and also to Kas for sharing her knowledge.

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New Year’s Day

Posted on January 11, 2023 by under Life, Pickleball.    

Last year, I was out of town playing in a pickleball tournament on New Year’s Day. This year I decided to have a purposefully relaxing NYD by not leaving town. I did play in a fun team tournament on NYE but nothing too serious.

Brian and I prepared a hearty breakfast, consisting of bacon, sausage, potatoes, eggs, and biscuits, the next morning for our house guests. We thought we were going to have three (Katie Merrill, Ramon Lozano, and Josh McAllister) but Josh decided to just make an up-and-back trip so we ended up with leftovers.

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Ramon, Katie, and several other friends played in the Hangover pickleball tournament at Chicken N Pickle that day. Speaking of Chicken N Pickle, huge shout out to them for hooking Katie up with the blue dri-fit shirt from the last sponsored athletes box so that she could match me, Ramon, and Jared (Smart) for the team event. Lindsey Vermillion actually had to expedite the package so it would arrive in time for her to wear it to the team event.

I didn’t get any pictures at the tournament but I did livestream the championship match between Vi Dang and Mitch Spencer vs Molly Sager and Austin Corley. Interestingly, Molly and Cory Sager were supposed to play together but then Jenny and Austin Corley signed up for the tournament when we were all hanging out during NYE at the Egan’s. They made a game-time decision to swap partners because Austin and Molly and Cory and Jenny are playing together in the iPickle Nation January Jam this weekend. The four of them figured they would use the Hangover tournament for practice.

Despite this being Austin and Molly’s first time playing together, they played really well and had great on-court chemistry. I think the four of them will do really well at the iPN tournament in Kansas City this weekend.

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I think the highlight of my day had to be taking Rosie (Katie’s dog) to Chicken N Pickle to watch her mama play pickleball but also to show her off because she is so stinkin’ cute. Anyway, I’ve always dreamed of taking my dog there but our dogs are not fit to be in public. Molly was always too amped and Saki is super jittery and afraid of people. Everyone was asking me about my dog. I wish she was mine because she is so good and well-behaved. And, she is super cuddly.

The weather was absolutely beautiful and the way NYD went was the perfect start to the year. I remember thinking, “If the rest of the year goes like this, it will be an amazing one!” It was just a super relaxing, fun day. Until next time, GNG.

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