Pickleball Makes the Big Leagues

Hockey analyst and commentator, Craig Button, with a pickleball injury.

Raymond H. Goettsch

According to USA Pickleball, more than 4 million Americans now play pickleball. So, it should not be surprising that professional baseball players also play pickleball. However, it was surprising that relief pitchers for the Chicago Cubs play pickleball during home games at Wrigley Field. The Cubs pitching coach, Tommy Hottovy, purchased a pickleball net and had it installed in the bullpen, which is located under the bleachers. Starting pitcher, Jake Arrieta, and quality assurance coach, Mike Napoli, have been seen playing pickleball, while the ballgame is in progress. Napoli was even seen wearing a t-shirt with the saying “Stay Out Of The Kitchen. Play Pickleball.”

Considering the Cubs’ next-to-last-place position in their division, an argument could be made that the team would be better off focusing on playing baseball. On the other hand, not surprisingly, the Cubs have used their bullpen relievers almost more than any other team in the major leagues. As a result, if playing pickleball can help keep the relief pitchers warm and relaxed, playing pickleball may be a major benefit.

The Cubs’ pickleball adventure has even led to the merchandising of pickleball paddles with the team logo.

Pickleball has also come into play in professional hockey. No, hockey players off the ice are not playing pickleball in the penalty box, but professional hockey analyst and commentator, Craig Button, felt the impact of pickleball recently. Button reported that while playing pickleball, he was chasing down a ball and fell with a face plant, smashing his sunglasses. He reported suffering cuts requiring stitches to his cheek and eyebrow. His analysis was telling, “I have learned that pickleball may reveal toughness and character!”