NEW YORK – On September 10th, 2023, the echoes of plastic pickleball paddles striking wiffle balls filled FOX Square in New York City. The rhythmic pops and squeaks continued for hours as part of a charitable pickleball marathon organized by Tunnel to Towers CEO Frank Siller. Joining him was former New York Yankees star Tino Martinez, who wanted to honor the victims of 9/11 while supporting the Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s mission of providing mortgage-free homes to Gold Star and fallen first responder families.
The 20th anniversary pickleball event attracted numerous participants and spectators, all united by a common goal – raising awareness and funds for the Foundation. As a member of the 2001 Yankees team, the tragedy of 9/11 holds special meaning for Martinez. “I’ll never forget the empty feeling in Yankee Stadium those first few games back,” he recalled somberly. However, Martinez channeled those emotions into something positive by competing in the marathon alongside Siller.
Their paddles cut through the air relentlessly throughout the day, the sharp cracks emphasizing each volley. While an unusual choice for a charitable event, pickleball’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. Its blend of tennis, badminton, and ping pong creates fast-paced games perfect for friendly competition.
By participating in this unconventional fundraiser, Martinez helped bring awareness to an important cause while paying tribute to the victims of 9/11. The pickleball marathon also highlighted the healing power of sports and community 20 years after the tragic attacks. As balls ricocheted off paddles, the ambience of friendly competition overshadowed somber memories, if only for a day.