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County commission repurposes set of Walter B. tennis courts

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Apparently, pickleball players are pretty hardcore.

Not even 37 degree temperatures and a steady breeze could stop a group of roughly 15 pickleball players from gathering at the tennis/pickleball courts on the bottom side of Walter B. Williams Jr. Park on Wednesday morning.

“I describe it as a cross between tennis, badminton and ping pong,” said Steve Franks, the unofficial de facto Milledgeville pickleball commissioner. “It’s short games, quirky rules and a whole lot of fun.”

Franks added that pickleball is “best suited for people with my hair color,” a whiteish and silverish combination, but added that it’s enjoyable for all ages.

Joked another older gentleman and fellow pickleball player: “The hardest part of pickleball is remembering what the score is!”

Recreation Director Traci Rollins said that the sport is taking off in Baldwin County and different parts of the state. Previously, the recreation department marked off two indoor pickleball courts at the Walter B. gym. Two more courts also were located in the tennis complex. After the pandemic hit, however, the players felt more comfortable playing outside, so the county commission voted to take two tennis courts and transform them into four dedicated pickleball courts (four pickleball courts are roughly the same size of two tennis courts).

“It’s really just taken off in the last few years. Pickleball is really, really big in Macon right now, and we are managing to draw players from Putnam (County) and Jones (County) right now,” Rollins said. “We are excited, for sure.”

The more the merrier, said Franks, adding that anyone who’s interested in joining simply can show up to Walter B. any Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and noon.

“We provide the rackets. We also provide the coaching. We aways have a dedicated court for coaching and new players,” Franks said. “So, come on.”