Meet “Sluggo” The Pickleball Mascot For

It started innocently enough when John and Karen Whitaker initially played pickleball. Perhaps they underestimated how addictive the sport can be. But soon after, they found themselves playing for hours upon hours until exhaustion and even injury. “We were playing for six and seven hours at a time not even knowing the correct way to play!”, remembers Karen. But that experience stoked a passion that would become a pickleball apparel line and would also inspire the brand mascot, “Sluggo.”

Here is the compelling story behind what or who Sluggo is.

What began as a way to kill boredom during lockdown soon turned into a full-blown obsession, resulting in marathon sessions. When became a reality, the duo wanted a mascot who embodied the same spirit and qualities as they did; this led to the birth of ‘Sluggo.’ The Whitakers made a rough draft of Sluggo, hoping to capture three essential tenets of their brand and the sport itself:

Determination – The basics of pickleball are easy to learn. “Easy to learn, hard to master” is the way John explains it. To be at a competitive level, requires practice, drills, tutorials, lessons, and commitment. This is a sport where you will hit plateaus, you have to be committed to sticking with it.”

Play-Through – It does not just slump in your skill set that requires commitment. Pickleball can be surprisingly physical as well. Karen discovered this friendly game friendly match can be very taxing, “between the two of us”, says Karen, “we’ve had a torn tricep, torn meniscus, torn biceps, pulled hamstrings, sprained ankle, slight concussion, cracked the bridge of my nose, and the occasional “Pickleball tattoo” when you get nailed by a screaming 40-mph ripper from the NVZ.But Sluggo is a “rub some dirt on it” kinda pickler, so no matter what, he plays through it!” laughs her husband, John.

Have Fun – One of the beautiful things about pickleball is its universal accessibility. People of all ages, sizes, and physical conditions take up the game, from children strong enough to swing a paddle to older adults in post-retirement. In a country rife with obesity, to see a sport that draws so many people out to play is extremely encouraging. Even when court availability becomes more competitive, seeing so many people taking part in this pickleball explosion is, for Karen, very rewarding. “It makes me smile. Even if we’re waiting for a court to open up, seeing so many people laughing and competing fills my heart.” No matter the level, the intensity, or the frustration in losing a hard-fought match, if you’re not having fun “you’re not doing it right” adds Karen.

Overall, a look of determination, a scuff mark from the effort, and a smile that says “game on” perfectly define the mascot– “Sluggo.” Look for him on your apparel including “special edition” shirts where Sluggo joins you in celebrating holidays.

Find out more about Karen and John by connecting on LinkedIn, listening to their podcast “HR Hardball”, and following them on Instagram as they continue their pickleball journey.

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