Coastal Point Pickleball Worthies of 2017

Date Published: 
Nov. 17, 2017

Let’s stop the presses for at least one brief moment this week before yet another pickle harvest engulfs us. Before we hermetically seal the year 2017, I want to mention just a few people who I believe do more than the rest of us — much of it selflessly unseen — so the game of pickleball along our pickleball coast and beach resorts can be enjoyed by so many.

When I decided to do this article, I thought it would be a breeze, but I stand corrected, because there are so many who have done so much. I agonized over my first selections. But in the interest of limited space and ink, I was forced to limit it to five, while at least a dozen more names swirl around my brain.

• Kathy Casey, the president of First State Pickleball Club, has spent endless hours as the advocate of pickleball in Delaware, talking to every politician worth their pickle, plus some others, trying to get resources redirected to pickleball.

Kathy is on the brink of a major breakthrough for a dedicated indoor pickleball center. I accompanied her on just some of her adventures, and she did all her presentations with passion and professionalism. Kathy was originally from Philadelphia and has been visiting Rehoboth since she was 2. Five years ago, she moved permanently here, working in the professional health industry as a psychotherapist, a clinical social worker.

When the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) was about to go leaderless, she stepped into the batter’s box while still maintaining a fulltime job and negotiated for indoor court times; first at the Plantations, and then helping the outstanding folks at Sports at the Beach get into stride. Through the merits of her positive personality, she brought WHYY to do a story on pickleball in lower Delaware.

Now the FSPC bylaws will force her out of her position as president, and she is going to organize another entity to help raise money for our first dedicated indoor pickleball facility. Before she can get fully engaged in that role, she is beginning to recruit for a replacement she can comfortably train.

Now that she has done all the heavy lifting, I hope pickleball finds someone as head pickle to keep the momentum. Please join me in thanking Kathy for all her hard work and selection as a Pickleball Worthy.

• Craig Southard will be embarrassed when he learns he is to be headlined as a Pickleball Worthy. Most of you only know him as that friendly fellow who runs the pickleball program in Ocean City, Md. Craig is from Warminster, Pa., and went to work for the Town of Ocean City 23 years ago. A resident of Ocean View, he also does double duty as a summer lifeguard in North Bethany.

Craig really cares about the quality of pickleball play he hosts at Ocean City. I think we all agree that his attention to detail has resulted in a first class pickleball facility. Thank you, Craig.

• Michelle DePalma is also a Pickleball Worthy. Born and raised in Bucks County, Pa., she worked first in the retail pet industry — loves mastiffs — and then transitioned to e-commerce and websites. She is the unseen force behind Sports at the Beach over near Georgetown, and manages the First State Pickleball Club website on her own dime, as a volunteer.

I personally know of a half-dozen pickleball projects where she carried the heavy load, making sure things happened correctly for the entire pickleball community — yet relatively few of us have met her.

If you are undecided about making a trip to Sports at the Beach sometime in the next few weeks, just do it and tell yourself, “This one is for Michelle!”

• Dudley Sluder is a longtime pickleball ambassador who everyone knows. Dudley was born in West Virginia, worked for UPS for 33 years in Maryland and D.C., started playing pickleball more than a decade ago, and moved here to the Pickleball Coast nine years ago. Like everyone, he played pickleball once and was hooked.

Today, Dudley is the go-to guy for organizing pickleball special events, repairing courts, painting lines and welcoming every new pickleball player into the community like a long-lost sibling. Everyone appreciates Dudley, so be sure to extend a special thank-you for all he does to harvest the pickles.

• Bob O’Malley is my final choice this first year. Bob is one of our top regional players and, frankly, would be embarrassed if he knew I was mentioning him for anything other than reporting scores. I already anticipate that he will soon, nicely but firmly, trap me in the corner of the pickleball court and sternly tell me that Julie Woulfe or Frank Creamer of Ocean Pines should have been selected.

Bob is originally from Maryland, where he retired from work as a firefighter. He inspires me with his work ethic in pickleball, and to watch him play is almost like a masterpiece of art. He plays pickleball with the same methodical nonplussed attention required of a firefighter, and his demeanor is that of a world-class athlete.

Bob is the poster-boy for all the good in our sport. Bob lives in Ocean Pines, Md., where he has been an important part — the heart and soul — of the Ocean Pines Pickleball Club. Bob is always one of the star volunteers every time we do a regional pickleball clinic and is the heart of the Delmarva Team Pickleball League.

Bob, thanks for being such a great role model for our growing sport.

Of the five, it was very difficult to select one above the others, but Bob O’Malley is my selection as the Coastal Point Outstanding Pickleball Worthy of 2017 for Delmarva. Bob will be the recipient, courtesy of the CEO of Pro-Lite Paddles, of the latest in technologies in pickleball paddles, the Pro-Lite SuperNova or Pro-Lite Chrome. It is Bob’s choice, because he is our choice!

Please join me in congratulating Bob and this first class of the Coastal Point Pickleball Worthies, the Class of 2017. When you next see them out and about on our pickleball courts, or in your neighborhood, please thank them for going the extra mile for our fast growing pickleball community.

Vaughn “The Baron” Baker is a Senior Olympics gold-medalist in pickleball, and is public relations director for the First State Pickleball Club (FSPC) and captain of the Ocean View Crew pickleball community. He spent his career working with top tennis professionals while working for Wilson Sporting Goods and introducing the Prince Tennis Racket and Wimbledon Tennis Lines. For more information, visit