Pro Football Hall of Famer and Naples, Florida, resident Mike Ditka will have his 84th birthday commemorated at the Naples Pickleball Center.
Pickleball enthusiasts and Ditka fans are invited to convene at the center, situated at 3500 Thomasson Drive in Naples, between 5 and 6 p.m. today (Wednesday, October 18) to engage in play and pay homage to Ditka.
The “Ditka” Mustache
Attendees are encouraged to wear the distinctive “Ditka” mustache in tribute to the one characteristically sported by the renowned coach.
Paddles and mustaches will be available if you can’t find one. Festivities will include cake and a rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
Naples Pickleball Center
The Naples Pickleball Center, operated by Collier County, serves as a competitive and recreational tournament venue in addition to offering clinics and open-court play.
Furthermore, the Center hosts the esteemed US Open Championship in April, featuring the nation’s top pickleball athletes vying for the sport’s highest accolade.
While pickleball remains the center’s primary focus, Robert Strommen, managing partner, emphasizes that Ditka’s birthday celebration is intended for the entire community:
“He’s a figure that anyone who follows football would recognize and appreciate his legendary status,” Strommen said.
“We thought, ‘Wouldn’t this be cool.’ Whether he shows up or not, we don’t know yet; we thought it would be a great, fun tribute to a legend but also just a great, fun thing for the community.”
Veterans’ Day Tournament
In a different vein, a charitable tribute tournament is scheduled for Veterans’ Day, taking place from November 10 to 11.
Unlike previous editions, this tournament will consider age and skill levels in a round-robin format.
The event, with a registration fee of $70, has attracted 343 registrations thus far.
This tournament’s net proceeds will be allocated to Home Base and Wounded Warriors of Collier County.
Veterans are eligible for a discounted rate – just use the code VDT2023.
Please note that refunds will not be granted after the registration deadline on October 30th, and a $10 cancellation fee will be applicable prior to that date.
The tournament will be played on a Pickleball Hardcourt Surface in an outdoor, non-covered area. The net-type is permanent, and Franklin X balls will be utilized. The venue boasts 66 courts.
The Naples Fun Festival Round Robin 50+
Moving forward, the Naples Fun Festival Round Robin 50+ is scheduled for Thursday, December 7, to Saturday, 10.
This event, priced at $80, is open to participants aged 50 and above. The event has 215 registrations at the time of writing.
The Fun Festival, scheduled for December 7-8, will offer a variety of engaging activities, including Beat the Pro, Cardio Pickleball, Round Robins categorized by skill level, King of the Court, and more.
The Fun Festival will start at 5.30 p.m. on Thursday and end at 8 p.m., while it will run all day on Friday, opening at 8 a.m. and closing at 8 p.m. Thursday’s highlights will include the glow-in-the-dark DaZZleball event.
The main tournament starts on Saturday with the doubles competition and concludes with the mixed double on Sunday. It will employ a round-robin format.
Participants have the option to register for either the Fun Festival or the tournament exclusively, or both.
Those opting for both will receive a $15 discount.
The Naples Pickleball Center Championship
The Naples Pickleball Center Championship is set to take place from February 2 to 4. Registration costs $95, and both partners must be registered and have paid to secure a spot.
There are 177 players registered already.
A few key details regarding the tournament:
– It is a sanctioned tournament, necessitating a USAPA membership.
– Each event is capped at 16 teams.
– The maximum number of players per day is 250.
– The registration deadline is set for 1/5/2024.
– Franklin balls will be used.
– Bracket changes will not be permitted after 1/5/2024.
– Refunds will not be granted after the specified cancellation date, so it is crucial to ensure both partners have completed payment.
“Iron” Mike Ditka
‘Iron’ Mike Ditka, a former NFL tight end and head coach, boasts an extensive tenure in the league from 1961 to 1999.
During his playing career, he clinched a Super Bowl victory with the Chicago Bears and received five Pro Bowl nominations. Ditka amassed 5,812 receiving yards, 43 touchdowns, and 427 receptions over a 12-year period.
He then secured Coach of the Year honors twice, culminating in a commendable 121-95 record. His pivotal role in leading the Bears to a Super Bowl triumph in 1986 earned him a well-deserved spot in the Hall of Fame just two years later.
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