WHITMAN — For 15 years now a small group of Whitman Woods neighbors have joined Kerri Lane resident Thomas Miller for a Friday game of pickup ball during the spring and summer months.
It’s not baseball or softball and they don’t shoot hoops, although they do play their games under a basketball hoop.
Their game is Ping-Pong, but serious players prefer the term table tennis, thank you.
“We were looking for something to do and we decided, ‘Let’s play Ping-Pong,’” Miller said before the last game of the regular season on Sept. 2. In past years they have been known to play into mid-October and finished off the last table with a New Year’s Day game last year.
“The table before this was not meant for outdoors, it was particleboard,” Miller said. Like the commercial says, the table was turning into “fall-apart-ical board.”
“It started to get a little bit yucky and we decided the last time we played in October last year it was good enough for probably one more game so we’d do a Winter Classic,” he said. “So we played on Jan. 1 and then we destroyed it.”
Luckily the weather that day was clear and in the high 40s, so it wasn’t like going swimming with the L Street Brownies.
The invitation-only games generally get going at 7 p.m. and don’t wind down until after 10. If they do disturb the neighbors on the cul-de-sac, Miller’s wife Lisa usually gets a call and relays the message via Text to quiet things down.
The whole thing started when he bought a Ping-Pong table without telling his wife, stashing it in the shed. After he told her about it, Lisa said she didn’t want it in the house.
Lisa found out when they were talking with a neighbor who asked when Ping-Pong started and she asked what he was talking about, Miller recalled with a laugh.
The newest table is owned by six of the players, having pooled their money for an all-weather model.
“The reason we did that is, if I’m not able to play every week and it’s in my shed, they should have access to it,” Miller said, adding that they use heavier outdoor Ping-Pong balls that are more wind-resistant.
Thus the curbside cul-de-sac “league” began. Miller’s son Riley, 14, runs the “junior league” of the Whitman Woods Ping-Pong Club. At the moment, it’s more of an honorary title — he is the only member. He also gives the adult players their nicknames, often with explanations known only to him.
As Miller spoke, Riley and Miller’s fellow Rockland-Hanson Rotary Club member Joe Pelligra volleyed a bit at the table and other neighbors out for an evening walk stopped to say hello. Miller and Pelligra are also both natives of upstate New York.
“I got pulled in when Tommy told me at Rotary he played Ping-Pong on Friday nights and said, ‘Why don’t you come over?’” said Pelligra, the only non-resident in the group. “I’ve known Tom for a long time. … He kept calling me and asking me to come, but I only started playing recently.”
The core membership in the “league” is six to 10. They play doubles, rotating players from the right.
Recently, the guys pooled their handyman skills to craft a light fixture atop a length of PVC pipe bent at a right angle.
“Now we can play for four hours,” Pelligra said.
“My wife just shook her head when she saw that,” Miller said. He pitched it to her that they could be hanging out at one of the local watering holes until 10 p.m.
Pelligra offered that it also hones hand-eye coordination and is good exercise.
“I love it,” Miller said. “I’ve been playing it since I was 12.”
When it gets chilly, the chiminea is brought out to keep things toasty.
“In the early days, when our kids were young — and we had two tables — we had a junior league,” Miller said. “Now they’re too cool to come down to play.”