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Plotnik, man credited with bringing pickleball to New Hampshire, dies

LITCHFIELD – “Everyone who plays the fastest growing sport in America, pickleball, lost a great friend,” John Croes said of Litchfield resident and longtime friend Jim Plotnik, 72, who died of an illness a few days ago.

“He was exceedingly friendly, quiet in speech and thoughtful,” Croes added of Plotnik.

Plotnik arrived in Litchfield from Schenectady, New York, in 2008, Croes said. The two met in the community and Plotnik introduced Croes to pickleball.

After becoming friends, they worked together to bring pickleball to their residential community.

“He brought with him a previously unknown sport, pickleball, and began teaching a few locals how to play,” Croes said.

Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis.

It can be played both indoors and outdoors on a badminton-size court. It is played with a paddle and a ball that is similar to a wiffle ball.

Legend has it that pickleball got its name in 1965, when three fathers from Washington – Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum – were looking to entertain their kids with a new game during the summer. The Pritchards owned a dog named Pickles, who would chase after the ball during games. Thus, the name pickleball was given.

Since 1965, the game has spread across the U.S., and even internationally into many European and Asian countries.

According to Plotnik’s obituary, while in Schenectady, “he was an avid tennis and racquetball player. He and his friends helped to grow the Schenectady pickleball community and brought pickleball to the New York Senior Games.”

Plotnik and his wife moved to New Hampshire to be closer to their family. Croes said Plotnik initiated The Litchfield Pickleball Association, which began playing in Litchfield’s Talent Hall. Croes said this interested people from Nashua and Manchester, along with other areas of southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts.

“Clubs have sprung up in numerous locations throughout the states now,” Croes said.

He continued, “In 2010, pickleball became an event in the New Hampshire Senior Games, and 162 players from all over the U.S. competed in this year’s Senior Games in Manchester.”

Plotnik was honored in 2013 for his pioneering role in bringing the spirit to New England. Members of the U.S. Pickleball Association gave him a plaque for his “tireless service as Regional Ambassador.”

“Thanks for bringing Pickleball to N.H.,” the plaque reads.

Croes said Plotnik will surely be missed.

“Many thousands of New Englanders get great pleasure from what Jim brought, taught and left us,” Plotnik said.

Grace Pecci can be reached at 594-1243, or gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.