Operation Safe House, VFW Post 7234, and your point of view | Sports

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I am now a proud member of VFW Post 7234 in Ocean View, and my membership followed receiving my first service from the Veterans Administration (VA) this year.

I’m not a spring chicken like most would agree so why so long?

My first introduction to the VA was when I was a young officer and was ordered to report for various medical tests. These hospitals were crowded with soldiers, my age and younger, evacuated from Vietnam with terrible wounds, lost limbs, burns and disfigurements. Subsequently, I found myself unwilling to use a lab, wheelchair, stretcher, or VA operating room anymore, as it could delay or hinder one of these most deserving young soldiers.

Eventually my hearing, due to the time spent on the flight line, eroded to the point that my civilian doctor referred me to the VA. I struggled a bit with my decision, but I went and found highly qualified and highly motivated doctors and technicians.

I have spent a large part of my career traveling the world. Yes, I’ve been there – well, the places they play tennis – and I’ve been there pretty much every season of the year. I never found another country like America, and one of the main reasons was the sacrifices of these young men. I use the past just in the hope that it was not in vain.

I just started to visit my VFW in Ocean View as a member, and it is a nice feeling to be surrounded by those with whom I have shared similar military experiences.

Why am I telling you this in my pickleball column? I appreciate what these veterans went through for our country and I admire each and every one of them. And we both know it won’t be long before the entire VFW position is playing pickleball.

Pickleballers are always involved in good deeds and causes. A good example is the annual participation in the Delaware Womenade Safe House operation by retired physician Susan Rattner and other pickleballers in raising funds for victims of domestic violence in Delaware.

This year’s fundraiser will take place on September 20, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at my VFW station in Ocean View. As always, there will be a silent auction, but this year it will be a virtual silent auction. I agreed to give pickleball lessons to the highest bidder for a clinical pickleball package, and another private lesson that includes the three tips to definitely improve your pickleball, as well as a free Paddletek Tempest Wave Pro – one of the Most popular pickleball paddles in the nation.

I hope our many pickleball friends can help support this charitable cause. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if some of my well-heeled friends from the golden old days of tennis would reach out and raise the stakes?

None of us should ever take the laughter and fun we get from pickleball and tennis for granted, because some, like those in need of Operation Safe House, cannot.

Reports keep coming in about many players who don’t really understand the basic rules of pickleball. I guess that’s understandable due to the explosive growth of the medium, but it can also be the result of listening to people who maybe only played a short time before teaching you. I suggest each of you find a certified instructor to help you get started with your game.

I want to review five rules this week:

• The ball can never touch the ground twice. After serving, you need to allow your opponents’ return ball to hit your end of the court, cleverly giving the home team the advantage. When this game was created, tennis was dominated by big servers, and I suspect the founders didn’t want that to happen in pickleball as well. Otherwise, the game is played by taking the ball in the air or on a single bounce.

The savvy reader has probably thought, “But you can’t always take the ball in the air!” Correct! They refer to the rules of the kitchen, which seem to confuse a lot of people, and that’s why I always call the kitchen the non-volleyball zone (NVZ).

• Contrary to the urban legend, you can enter the kitchen at any time. You can call your spouse from the kitchen. You can install a hot plate and make pancakes in the kitchen. You can shout at every passerby in the kitchen that you are a 5.0.

What you can’t do is hit the ball in the air in the kitchen, and that’s why it’s called NVZ. And if your opponents catch you in the kitchen or the NVZ, they’ll hit the ball straight at you. If it hits you or your paddle – their point. Why? Because this is the non-volleyball zone. And that’s why instructors put so much emphasis on staying out of the kitchen.

• A more recent rule – When a served ball hits the net but continues forward into the service zone (formerly called a let), it must be played. No rental or redesign allowed.

• A very old rule that often goes unnoticed – The ball must be able to land outside the court before the point is concluded. If the ball lightly touches either opponent on the way out of the field, that’s your point of view. If your opponent catches the ball even though they are standing 5 feet from the court, then that is your point. If your opponent climbs the fence and catches a ball before it crosses the fence, then this is your point.

I once got nailed between the eyes by a head as I was against the fence 20 feet behind the Forest Hills court, and that was my opponent’s point of view. No discussion necessary.

• If you serve a double-handed ball that is obviously going to be called out but hits the opponent who is waiting at the net – your point. No discussion required – your point. They didn’t let the ball go out.

For more information on Operation Safe House, visit www.delewsrewomenade.com.

Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a senior Olympic gold medalist in pickleball and public relations director of the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He has spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and showcasing the Prince tennis racquet and Wimbledon tennis lines. For more information, visit PickleballCoast.com.


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