Photo by Armond Feffer/Boston Red Sox
If you doubted the grip pickleball has on U.S. culture these days, consider this: In July, the sport held court at two Major League Baseball stadiums.
The Ballpark Series, hosted by upstart Pickleball4America (Pickleball4, for short) to create more playing opportunities for both amateurs and professionals at iconic venues, built on the success of that organization’s 2023 US Open Pickleball Championships in Naples, Florida, in April. That event attracted more than 3,000 players from all over the world, with an estimated 37,000 visitors.
The Ballpark Series, held July 13-16 at Boston’s Fenway Park, July 20-23 at San Francisco’s Oracle Field, was the first of its kind in the country and featured a small field of pros at each event and hundreds of amateurs who signed up to compete on temporary courts that lined the outfield perimeters.
A third event on the docket, to be held at Denver’s Coors Field, was postponed due to logistical issues. But Pickleball4
‘Our goal is to shine a bright light on this great game,” Mike Dee, chairman of Pickleball4America, said in a statement. "We started Pickleball4America with a vision to build the sport's best ecosystem centered around operating prestigious events and creating a robust digital community that becomes the go-to destination for all who love the game. The Ballpark Series builds on the recent success of the 2023 US Open Pickleball Championships which set new records for both participation and attendance. We are excited to now expand our event portfolio in these cathedrals of baseball providing players and fans with a unique experience to enjoy all that pickleball has to offer."
Top players, including Simone Jardim, Andrei Daescu, Parris Todd and Hunter Johnson, played in the events. Numbers included the following:
- 300-Plus: Participants in Kids' Clinics
- 936: Competition Games
- 336: Medals Awarded
- 1,000-Plus: Hours Played
Amateur players were able to participate in the Ballpark Series two different ways. The first was reserve court time for an 80-minute session for up to ten players. In addition, amateurs who wanted to compete for an inaugural Ballpark Series medal could participate in doubles championships at skill levels 3.5 and up.
Pickle4 also announced a deal with CBS Sports; this package included nine hours of total live programming on CBS Sports Network.
In addition, Pickle4 also announced major partnerships with the United States Virgin Islands Department of Tourism and Franklin Sports that both feature unique elements.
As part of their partnership, Pickle4 and the United States Virgin Islands Department of Tourism will collaborate to expand the tournament series to the Caribbean.
"The USVI is excited to partner with Pickle4America on this year's Ballpark Series, which puts the sport center stage at some of the country's most iconic sports facilities," said Joseph Boschulte, U.S. Virgin Islands Commissioner of Tourism. "The expansive growth of pickleball makes this an ideal time to join in and expand the sport into the Caribbean by way of our destination."
That means we’re about to see even more pickleball travel, with some great sightseeing capabilities, as well as tournaments, thrown into the mix.