Flying in from the East Coast Gizmo looks warm in our Southern California sun. Ray’s glare off the screen of my video messenger and when the picture clarifies all I see are cheeseburgers. So many cheeseburgers.
Gizmo is a pickleball pro who rally’s behind altruism to spread the sport that changed his life. With a laid-back vibe he dives deep into pickleball. His first words: “It was love at first sight.” His second: “I have no experience.”
Getting In The Game
Gizmo was literally pulled into pickleball by two 70-year old women clutching his hand steering him towards the courts.
“I was working as a paramedic for the Fire Department and went to the gym and I heard this sound. I thought it was pingpong. I went to check it out and there’s three nets set up and I’m like what in the world is this,” Gizmo adds “The ladies said ‘this is pickleball do you want me to show you how it works?’ I said that’s alright. They were a bunch of older people and I didn’t want to interrupt. I told her I’ll just watch.”
Gizmo was off work for two days and returned to the gym to hear that familiar sound. When he peeked his head around the corner to check it out again the lady wasn’t going to take no for an answer.
“This time the lady said ‘you don’t get to look twice without at least trying it!’ She grabbed my hand and put the paddle in my hand and showed me how it works. It was love at first sight. “
Gizmo had no idea his entire life was about to change.
“I started playing four to five days a week for five hours a day, driving anywhere I could to play pickleball. I fell in love so much. Pickleball gave me this heartful insight. I meet pickleball people and I’m like wait you’re a decent percent. There’s no side angle. You’re a genuine person.”
After six months on the courts Gizmo lost his mother and struggled with depression. He decided to go pro and quit his job as a paramedic of 13-years.
“When I first started thinking about going pro I lost my mother unexpectedly. I was raised by a single mom as an only child and now she’s gone and I started thinking well what’s next? How is this supposed to work?”
Gizmo turned to the game to clear his head.
“Pickleball helps me personally with my depression. I started playing pickleball as much as I could. I felt when I was on the court it was like ‘yes, you have regular stuff going on but were gunna pause it right here right now,” Gizmo added, “It would allow me to step back and be able to assess the whole situation not from such a close up standpoint and ultimately to make better decisions from a clearer mind,” the earnestness in Gizmo’s voice is relatable.
Trading a 70K a year a job for the front lines of a new sport without cemented monetization and no previous sports experience Gizmo didn’t look back.
“I knew if I went to Texas open when I came back I would not have a job. They gave me leave off then said I couldn’t take it off and I already secured all the arrangements. If I go to Texas Open and come home I wont have a job so its sink or swim. And I went to the Texas open. When came back battalion chief told me to talk to fire chief and I was terminated.”
Once upon a time Gizmo spent a majority of his life trying to fit in. Today he fills my screen dressed head to toe in rainbow-colored cheeseburgers. It’s hard to imagine anyone overlooking Gizmo and the outfits he designs himself.
“The thing behind the cheeseburgers is never give up. Keep grinding, keep going. Whether you’re down in a pickleball game or real life just keep scrapping and keep fighting. That is kinda the mantra behind the whole cheese burger deal. No one else wears what I wear.”
With no sports background Gizmo has no experience to fall back on and cant afford to give up. He looks to his cheeseburgers for motivation and to wave a sign of hope for others.
“I set a goal and decided to make it a reality. Most people would say you don’t have a background, most people have been playing a racket sport their entire life,” Gizmo smiles. “I don’t come from a tennis background. I never played a racket sport in my life. Two 70-year old ladies introduced me to the sport and six-months later I quit my job to chase my dream of becoming a National pickleball player.”
Pressing the Kitchen Line
Confidence follows Gizmo. In his past life he was a paramedic and pro bass fisherman. He seems to pull off anything he dips his four-fingered hand into.
“I’ve been shot four times. I have a titanium rod in my right leg. My right ring finger is amputated. I’ve got a lot of obstacles a normal person has to overcome let alone a pro athlete with all these other setbacks.”
If you look past the clothes you see dreads, steam punk goggles and one of the few African Americans on pickleball courts.
“There’s not a lot of African Americans in the sport. I can count on both hands the African American competitors in national competitions, and only one other one with dreadlocks. Both Fire Departments I worked for, I was the third African American to work for them since 1958.”
The most interesting thing about Gizmo isn’t his moniker, moves on the court or even his funky clothes. Gizmo has a superpower.
“Helping people is what my superpower is – everyone has one and helping people is what mine is,” Gizmo continues, “Yes I help a lot of people on the back of a firetruck and ambulance. I realized I could help so many more people across so many more demographics by introducing pickleball to them.”
Gizmo tapped into his superpower early and spreads the joy of pickleball in hopes it will help others the same way it helped him. Gizmo frequents schools, clubs and anywhere else he feels joy is needed.
“I was a misguided youth. I grew up with a single parent, a single mom. The streets pretty much raised me. If I can have positive change on one kids life, for me its all worth it. My goals isn’t attached to monetary value, it’s attached to a never-ending goal line.”
Gizmo volunteers at juvenile detention centers and donates gear to charities and organizations. He gives free lessons to other players when he’s touring and he’s planning a pickleball trip to Costa Rica in February 2021 to bring over nets and paddles to set up at schools.
“Give your gift away and your gift will make room for you,” Gizmo says.
In 2019 Gizmo bought a farm with the intention of turning it into a facility to help people. The farm paired with his spiritual awakening from Pickleball has become the vehicle for his altruism. This is where Gizmo’s dream, gift and superpower come together.
“I bought the farm last year and named it Pickleball Farm. It has 10-acres, a pond, a field- house, barn animals, everything. I want pickleball courts built at the farm and to start running disadvantaged youth and kids summer camps,”Gizmo continues, “I want to work with different youth organizations to teach basic life skills. Fishing, farming, archery, pickleball and taking care of animals.”
A self-proclaimed city boy, Gizmo said he is adjusting to life on a farm and in the spotlight as a pro-athlete.
“I want to help people make their life phenomenal. At Pickleball Farm people can come stay and sign kids up for camp. They can come and fish. It’s kind of an oasis for anybody whose life is not perfect.”