BY MATT MENCARINI | SPORTS EDITOR
I tried to make a lacrosse stick when I was younger. It didn’t exactly pan out.
All I remember of my failed attempt was it involved a cut-off broom handle, some netting, some spare siding from my parents' house and a few screws.
I’m no Jim Evans, that’s for sure.
Evans, a former shop teacher and ice machine manufacturer, made a pickleball canon which, to his knowledge, is the only one of its kind in existence.
It took Evans about two months to build the canon, which is made completely out of over-the-counter products, like a leaf blower, PVC pipe, wood and an electric motor.
But it evolved over those two months, and is still far from being complete. Just a week ago, the canon was a skeleton. Now, it has a body.
Evans added a single wheel in the back, to go along with two in the front, to make aiming and transportation easier.
The canon fires a ball every four seconds, but it took him awhile to get the timing right. And timing is important, since he sees the canon working mostly as a teaching tool.
“Just combining a little bit of desire, with the background of ingenuity, this is what the result was,” Evans said.
He got the idea for the canon while trying to convince a tennis player to give pickleball a chance. He couldn’t use any other kind of pitching machine either, he says, because the wheels would crush the plastic balls.
“I have a woodworking knowledge,” Evans said. “And then learning all the stuff that I learned while teaching, and making the ice vending machines, I learned about plastic. And I learned about the mechanics.”
He brought his canon to a manufacturer in Holly Hill. Evans said he’s in talks about having it mass-produced once it's perfected.
But Evans has his eyes on more than just being the first person to make a pickleball canon. He also wants to make paddles and balls. He can make them cheaper than they cost in the store, he says, and it’s another hobby.
Among the roughly 20 regular pickleball players at the Nova Community Center, Evans seems to have become a bit of a celebrity, showing off his invention to the delight of his fellow pickleballers.
But for Evans, it’s all for a love of the game.