Recharged in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.....k

March 12, 2013

Last email I was recharging my battery in Austin, Texas high ceiling, wood floor, good space around tables and top players. the day before the Austin's Thursday night league.  Thursday they put me on table #1 with six other players, I played well against a 1900 level looper, however didn't fair so well against Rick Mueller....a modern day defensive player. 4 of 15 tables in this spacious facility. Considered one of the top 5 TT clubs in USA according to Karl Augestad Rick returned everything as he constantly flipped his racket from smooth spinny inverted to long pips no sponge.  In my opinion Rick flipped as often, if not more, than some members of congress.  Rick won the table and I held up my number three position.

 Austin was a great place to play and their hospitality was beyond compare.  The day-to-day manager Kenneth was doing his daily student instructions as well as making sure I had coffee, a place to park the EuroVan at night, and plently of different playing styles to practice against.  Perhaps the most tastful thing was to direct me to where the best real homemade Mexican restaurants were located.  Gained a few of the ten pounds I've lost back....was worth every bite.

 Thursday drove half way to New Orleans before bedding down at a rest stop at the border of Texas and Louisiana.  Tired after playing then driving four hours I just found a good parking space, pulled the curtains, and rolled into bed.  Next morning I open the curtains and discover I'm parked right next to a sign, "Beware of snakes."  Oh well, if it ain't a rattlesnake in Texas it's got to be a copperhead.  At least a rattlesnake will usually send a warning, those copperheads are silent and deadly.

 New Orleans TTC meets three times a week in the Hilton, approximately three blocks from the Super dome.  $5.00 to play pong, $12.00 to park the vehicle.  Get full details from Marty (club manager) about where to park before going to the club.  Tables share space with basketball, volleyball, and tennis.  The floor is the same material as in the Alaskan AT&T building where the Anchorage club meets.  All the other activities going on and the same floor, I felt pretty much at home.

 After pong, drove to an old friend's home in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.  Albert Weaver and I played against each other in the 1970s.  Albert is 72 years old and taking care of his wife as she deals with advanced stages of Alzheimer.  Strange how we sometimes believe time has stopped after we leave a place, we think nothing has changed when we returning.  Once again, a reality check.

 Today, off to Niceville, Florida to look up another air force friend from Greenland, Al Cornwell.  Al bought a seafood restaurant in Niceville before retiring from the Air Force, the restaurant continues to operate, so I'm guessing Al is still the owner or they can put me in contact with Al.

This evening I'll go to the Fort Walton Beach TTC.  On the USATT site the club reports only advanced players are welcome tonight.  Suppose I'll find out what an advanced player is?

God willing and the creek don't rise, I'll visit with Charlie and Cheryl Hines on Thursday, on Amelia Island, just north of Jacksonville.  Visiting Charlie and Cheryl is the primary reason for making this cross-country excursion.  However, I've reconnected with old friends and make new friends along the way. 

Enjoy every moment.

As ever,




An Island in the Desert...

March 7, 2013

That's how Mark Norby described the El Paso Table Tennis Club's (TTC) location.  

Mark is correct, there is approximately 350 miles to Tucson, AZ and over 500 miles to Austin, TX with desert all around.  However, I'd add one word, "a paradise island .  (for table tennis crazies) in the middle of the desert."

I'm way ahead of myself though, to bring everyone up-to-date I've played at the following clubs on this cross country journey:  Berkeley TTC; I TTC in Albany, CA; Indian Community Center (ICC); Ping Pong Dojo; Pong Planet (aka Planet Pong); San Francisco TTC; Fremont TTC Academy; Badminton & Table Tennis Academy; Silicon Valley TTC; Sacramento TTC; Citrus Heights TTC; and Folsum TTC....all in northern California.  Thanks to Bob Palgon we visited 3 or 4 clubs a day for three days.

I was entered in a Sacramento tournament however severe flu caused withdrawal.  Since I wasn't playing in the tournament, decided to head to Henry & Jackie Blankenships in Las Vegas.  Sill under the weather, got to play at Mr. Lee's TTC in Chinatown and the Las Vegas TTC, run by Errol Resek.  Errol lived in Alaska once and this year was inducted into the USATT Hall-of-Fame.

Drove from Las Vegas to play at the Phoenix and Tucson Clubs, just enough to play a few hours and hit the road.  This trip would be easier with two people for driving, documenting, and visiting with the various club members.  Finding many clubs have their own location, not sharing with other activities.  Young players are taking serious coaching, and the internet has opened up a new world.  Years ago, if you didn't know someone who knew someone in a certain city, you'd be lost to find a club.

Arrived in El Paso early in the morning and got a chance to look around at a really beautiful city.  Average price for a four bedroom, two bath home is $125,000.  The El Paso TTC is probably the best kept secret in the entire ping-pong world.  They have 9 Butterfly tables always set up, rubber floor, great lighting, pictures of professional players on the wall (in nice frames), two showers down stairs, and a break room.  A local lawyer/ping-pong player bought the entire building because he got tired of being kicked around at the neighborhood recreation center.  The attorney hired Mark Norby to coach and promote table tennis in El Paso.  Mark says he's a coach but doesn't do well at promoting.  However, as a coach Mark is outstanding.  He's taken several 900 level players to over 1900, truly amazing.  Whenever traveling through El Paso make it a point to play's a first class venue.Andy and Karl visiting another table tennis club on another adventure in 2009

Club's that do not have a permanent location struggle to keep a core number of members.  And some that have a permanent home also struggle.  In northern California families show up at the local club to encourage their children.  Older member clubs have members drop out for a few years and then come back.  Difficult to manage when there is overhead.

Doing most of my driving at night.  Clear skies, thousands of stars, and a bright moon lite night I thought it would be pleasant to hike through the desert, until I crossed Rattlesnake Creek....reality check.  Half way between Vegas and Kingman, AZ there are two road signs next to each other.  One is advertising the Skyway over the Grand Canyon and the other is offering the opportunity to shoot a .50 caliber machine gun.  Since it was 3 am I expect both were closed, however you never know about those machine gun operations.

Sending this email from the Austin TTC, approximately 20 tables in their own building, once again a local business person donated the building.  Adult training going on while 2000 level players are practicing.  The manager is allowing me to park the VW EuroVan Camper outside for the night.  Friendly people those pongers.

Best regards, Andy


One week into a Table Tennis adventure, Andy Hutzel hits the road

Feb. 24, 2013

Hope all is well with everyone and hope to see you all soon. Another day at the office, Andy and his VW Eurovan I've been in northern California for five days and played at the following clubs.

The Sacramento TTC, Wednesday night round-robin.  I was placed on table #2 in the sixth of seven  positions.  Top player on table #2 was just over 2000, he won the table and will move to table #1 next week.  I held my position by winning against the last player on our table.  Friendly players, with various styles.  Scott Gordon a 2000 hard bat player was #2 on our table, we went five games.

The Folsom TTC (north/east of Sacramento) was open play on Thursday night in a sports complex similar to the Anchorage AT&T building, except much more noise.  Several basketball courts were in use, an indoor scocor game was being played, while tweleve tables were in use.  Lighting wasn't the best, however players had various styles.  Great place to train on focusing.

After playing at Folsom Club drove to Fremont, California to stay with my old hard bat friend Bob Palgon.  Bob and I earned 2nd place in the hardbat open doubles at the US Nationals several years ago.  Since arriving in Freemont Bob set a difficult training schedule. 

Friday morning we went to the Indian Community Center (ICC) around 11 am, and watched Tim Wang (US Men's Champion) train.  The ICC has 22 tables and several were being used by young talented players for training.  We played until around 1:30 pm then off to....

the I TTC north of Berkeley.  It's a farily new club with seven tables, rubber floor and a robot.  Played at this club for approximately one hour before heading to the Berkeley TTC.  Round-Robin night with 29 tables being set up.  Once again I'm on table #2 in the sixth position.  Barely won a match over the number 5 player, but lost a close five game match to the number seven player.  Berkely club has wood floors, great lighting, and fairly new tables...worth the five dollars to play.

Saturday morning up around 7 am to play at another new club, Planet Pong, located in San Francisco.  Turns out one of the Planet Pong owners, Dennis, was stationed at Bitburg AFB, Germany (same as me) and played in the German leagues from 1983 to 1988.  I was there from 1972 to 1977.  Dennis and I compared notes and turns out the same German players were on the teams when we were both playing.  Stability when trying to maintain a program.  Planet Pong, so far, is the best club visited.  Everything is only six months old, new tables, rubber flooring, new paint on the walls, relaxing area with food available.  Saturday morning and 30 young players training.Andy and Diann at the International Senior Games in Fairbanks 2008

Around 2 pm, (same day Saturday) we arrived at the San Francisco TTC, where there are six table, wood floors, good lighting and dark background.  Very friendly people, Chineese coach took control of one table.  Played singles and doubles.  In walks a young Chinese girl, a boy friend, and her visiting Uncle from China.  Apparently the Uncle is a national coach in China, sure...!  Turns out when they begin to play the younger players are guessed to be above 2100 and the Uncle (coach) handles their game easily.  Oh well, must be nice to have a national Chinese coach just drop into your club to hit around. 

Today, Sunday morning,  we're off to the Top Spin TTC until around 2 pm then to the Silicon Valley TTC were we're registered for round-robin play.  Bob is slowly wearing me down, since I'm ususally tired after three hours of play.  Hoping to loose 10 pounds before the Two Star tournament next Saturday in Sacramento. 

Playing at the Sacramento, Folsom, and Citrus Heights clubs next week before the Saturday tournament.  I'll be ready for a break, just don't know when that will be?



Open Play sessions offers matchs for all levels

New and regular players are welcome to join the open drop-in table tennis sessions at the AT & T Sports Pavilion in Anchorage.  The gathering 2 to 3 times a week the sessions offers great action among all skill levels.  Most drop-in sessions last 3-4 hours and sometimes late in the evening past midnight.  Players are encouraged to offer help setting up the 6-8 tables on one of 4 hard courts.   After 10-15 minutes of warm up practice one of the clubs coordinators sets up a series of round robin groups based on the skill level of the attendees.  Anywhere from 2 to 4 groups or pools of players consisting of 4 to 8 players.  Normally matches are best 3 of 5 games yet when time is limited or larger pools then best 2 of 3 games.

The C and D pool is for the beginner and novice players.  Although matched up for games the rallies are often short but players are encouraged to practice the rules, scoring and their basic strokes.  If time permits one member of the top division drops in to check on the action and answer any questions.  New players are instructed how to record the game scores on the round robin result sheet.  Top winner often advances to the next pool the following week.

The intermediate or B pool consist of the more experienced players who offer some challenging and exciting play.  Several athletes are up and coming smashers who have some tricky serves and learning new strategies.  Good play with often close scores.  Again the top intermediate winner will often advance to the A pool the following meeting.  

The A pool consists of the top 4-6 players attending this session.  Matches can take 20-30 minutes at this higher level of play.  Present and past champions among talented visiting athletes from all over the world.  Spectators are welcome to watch the intense play as many can be very vocal after a grueling point.  We have been graced by players from Germany, China, Korea, Japan, Sweden and Mexico.  And others too.  The top local players love the visitors who offer new style, speed and timing not regularly experienced before.  

What ever your skill level or experience come out on the clubs weekly open play drop-in sessions. Arrive early to help set up the tables and be a good sport.  Bring your towel and water bottle and be ready for some fast action.  Come on out, take the challenge for great exercise and mental focus.  SPIN ON! 


Long summer days still attracts the hard core Alaskans indoors

With the limited summer days in Alaska most locals are outdoors enjoying the sunshine.  Karl & Jose can't make up their mind which racket sport?Yet some of us addited to the sport will play indoor even under clear blue skies.  Most Alaskans love fishing, camping, cycling and all sorts of outdoor activites.  My wife loves working on her flowers and gardening.   And last Saturday after 4 hours of table tennis I then visited my folks to load up a van full of tree branches and debres, unloaded them at the local facility then trimmed and mowed the lawn at home.  A good Alaskan style workout. A group of us played in Eagle River at the home of Alaska's first Table Tennis Hall of Fame inductee, Boyd Bennett.  The sun was out and tempatures in the 70's.  What are we thinkng playing inside with the weather looking so great.  But if you have been here for a while you know  often think 

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