A curious set of circumstances turned Jack Munro, AKA Jr. Mint, onto the sport of pickleball. Following a baseball injury, 10-year-old Jack Munro needed something a little less high-impact, and that was it. He was hooked.
His amusing turn of phrase shows just how much it meant to him: “As soon as I got the sling off, I said, ‘Screw baseball, I just want to keep playing this,’” he said. “I’m ambidextrous just because I played in that sling for a bit.”
The Youngest 5.0 Player
By 13, Munro had become the youngest 5.0 pickleball player, a significant achievement at the time. Now a sophomore in economics at The University of Texas at Austin, Munro recently secured a three-year deal with Major League Pickleball, signaling a turning point in his career:
“It was a big deal for me because it meant that I had enough eyeballs to attract the biggest tour to have interested in signing me,” says Munro. “Then that snowballs and helps with sponsors and stuff like that.”
Pickleball Union first reported on Jack Munro when the APP announced he would form part of its first-ever Next Gen National Team. Then, Munro was one of 70 players Major League Pickleball signed during the “pickleball civil war,”
A Flaw In The System
Munro points out the flaw in the previous system: “It screwed the viewers over because if the top players are going to one tour, but then some top players are going to the other tour, then you’ll never see that matchup,” he said.
The conflict concluded with a $50 million-backed merger of the leagues. However, according to Munro, the partnership may prevent the bodies from fully compensating players’ contracts as there may be too many of them now.
“The first bit was not being able to sleep at night because you’re so stressed like, ‘Am I actually gonna get paid out? Where am I gonna go? What’s the plan? Even today, I still don’t know,” he says.
Austin’s Shortage Of Courts
Despite the distractions, Munro focuses on training in Austin, grappling with the sport’s shortage of retired pros for coaching and suitable courts.
However, Tim Klitch, the founder and chief fun officer of Austin Pickle Ranch, the eight-court rooftop pickleball facility, has a court on his home property and allows Munro and fellow players to practice there.
Munro gets to practice with the sport’s top-ranked male player, Ben Johns. Something which has evidently impressed Klitch:
“I’ve mostly seen him practicing with Ben Johns, who is the number one pickleball player in the world right now. If you’re good enough to practice with Ben Johns, you’re pretty good.”
Munro is aware that practicing with fellow pros can be awkward as it helps expose potential flaws that can be exploited during competitive games, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem at the moment.
“Since I’m still a rising pro, people are still trying to help me out. I’m not at the point yet where they’re withholding everything that they know because they’re worried that I’m going to eat their lunch!”
That turn of phrase again!
@thekitchenpickleball I want to tell you a little story. It’s about a kid named Jack Munro, a.k.a. Junior Mint. Mint, who also happens to be ambidextrous, started playing pickleball in 2014 at the age of 10. By 2016, he was the youngest 5.0 in recorded history. 📖 After a tough decision, Jack decided to take 4 years off from pickle to play high school basketball. 🏀 We’ll guess what, JACK IS BACK. And he’s freezing up the best players in the world. 🧊 #pickleball #pickleballtiktok #pickleballhighlights #pickleballpro #pickleballtournament #junior #prodigy #ambidextrous #highlight #foryou #thekitchen ♬ original sound – The Kitchen Pickleball
The Simi Valley Pickleball Community
The Simi Valley pickleball community, where Munro began his journey, continues to support him despite his professional status.
Craig Evans, Munro’s former doubles partner and a family friend, noted Munro’s impact, saying, “It was odd to see this young kid playing with everybody else (who was) 50 and over. It’s a weird phenomenon, but that’s the magic of pickleball.”
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