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Meet the 2024 Texas Ranchers, Austin’s Newly-Drafted Professional Pickleball Team

Team co-owner Bobby Bones shares what we can expect from this Major League Pickleball team

Texas Ranchers Pickleball
Texas Ranchers Owners at Ranchers Roost (Jeremy Hills, Evan Floersch, Alex Maxson, Pierre Scholz, Ted Moskovitz, Tim Klitch)

As a fun recreational sport, pickleball has made a big impression on Austin, with membership pickleball clubs, open courts at parks, and even pickleball-themed outdoor bars popping up all over the city. Because of Austin’s clear fondness for this paddle game that merges elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, we weren’t surprised to learn that Austin is home to its very own Major League Pickleball team, the Texas Ranchers.

And yes, we said “Major League Pickleball.” Pickleball’s pro league first launched in 2021, and its elite players compete in tournaments throughout the season with the hopes of winning the final championship. Austin’s reputation as a top location for pickleball enthusiasts gives the Texas Ranchers an extra level of appeal, both for potential players and coaches and also for high-profile team owners like hip-hop superstar Lil’ Wayne, country sensation Zach Bryan, jewelry designer Kendra Scott, and TV and radio host Bobby Bones. 

Bobby Bones' pickleball league
Bobby Bones (Photo courtesy of Texas Ranchers)

Another indication that Major League Pickleball hopes to grow its pro-sports cred? They, like the NFL and NBA, “draft” new players to teams, and this year’s MLP draft yielded an exciting quartet of pickleballers for the Texas Ranchers.

We got the chance to catch up with three of the Ranchers and with team co-owner Bobby Bones to learn what excites them most about pickleball and its impressive rise, why Austin is a great place to get into this sport, and what we can expect from this new team as they head into the official MLP season. 

For Bobby Bones, his interest in being a part-owner of the Texas Ranchers rests on pickleball’s very broad appeal. “It’s the one sport that really anybody can hop into and play. But it’s also really difficult if you choose to make it (that way),” Bones tells us. He appreciates the community spirit of pickleball, where players of all different skill levels can join together and have a good time, but he also acknowledges that “elite (pickleball) is a whole different ball game.” A social rec-league game that can still be elevated and appreciated on a professional scale is a combination that could turn the Texas Ranchers into a team that’s near and dear to Austinites’ hearts. 

Speaking of Austin, Bones views our city as an ideal location to cultivate a fanbase for pro pickleball. “Austin’s the greatest city ever for outdoor (activities). And so even before pickleball exploded, it was like ‘what’s the next outdoor thing, and how quickly will Austin embrace it?’ It happened to be pickleball, and we’re seeing crazy support from the inside. As this grows and as the league grows, you’re going to see the knowledge of pickleball and the knowledge of the team grow inside of Austin. If there was one place I’d want to start a team, it would be here,” Bones tells us. 

As for the newly-recruited Texas Ranchers players, they’re universally excited to build up the presence of professional pickleball in Austin and to get to know this already very pro-pickleball city better. “It seems like a really cool town with cool people. It seems like there are a lot of young people in this area too. And pickleball is just a big part of the (Austin) community now, and that’s what you want as a professional pickleball player,” says Pablo Tellez, who’s been playing pickleball at an advanced level since 2019 following his college career as an NCAA tennis champion. 

Texas Ranchers Pickleball
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(Photo courtesy of Texas Ranchers)

Texas Ranchers
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(Photo courtesy of Texas Ranchers)

Texas Ranchers Pickleball
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(Photo courtesy of Texas Ranchers)

Texas Ranchers Pickleball
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(Photo courtesy of Texas Ranchers)

The new Texas Ranchers have only been training together for a short time, and they’re heading to Atlanta on May 9th for the official start of the MLP season. Tina Pisnik, a new Rancher with a tennis pedigree who’s played pickleball professionally since 2022, tells us that she’s optimistic about the Ranchers’ chances this season because the team’s chemistry is a priority both to the players “and to ownership. We feel that connection and they want us to succeed. It comes from the top and we got that feeling from day one. And the mix of players that we’re drafted on this team–I think we match pretty well. We get along well and it’s fun. It’s serious when it has to be serious; it’s game-on. But we also have a lot of fun and hang out off the court, which makes it easy to connect and feel good.”

Currently, the MLP season doesn’t include any official games in Austin. But Christian Alshon, a seasoned pickleball professional who came to the sport after years as a college tennis player, says that “if the people of Austin want to see us play pickleball, tell us and get us out here! All you have to do is say that you want it, and we’ll make it happen.” 

In the meantime, Austinites eager to see the Ranchers do their thing can head to their home base in Austin, the Eastside Paddle Club, on Sunday, May 12 to cheer the Ranchers on at the team’s official watch party.