Jim Berger, left, and Tony Hoang.

Jim Berger, left, and Tony Hoang.

Jim Berger, a pickleball fanatic who has worked for years to promote the game in the county, recently was honored for his efforts.

Berger, 74, of Crystal City was presented with a plaque at a birthday party his friends threw for him on Nov. 7 at Frankie Gianino’s Bar and Grill in Imperial. The celebration was scaled down, however, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had about 20 people come,” said event organizer Tony Hoang. “We were going to invite 150, but were told not to because of COVID.”

Hoang said people wanted to recognize Berger for spreading his passion for pickleball, a racquet sport considered easier on the body than some other games, which makes it attractive to people of all ages.

“He actually has been working on pickleball in the county for more than five years,” Hoang said.

“I appreciate what he’s done, bringing pickleball to the community. We really appreciate what he does.”

Berger is a leader of the Jefferson County Pickleball League and an official USA Pickleball Association ambassador for the region that stretches from St. Louis south to Sikeston.

He also serves as “Sports Representative-Missouri, AAU Pickleball.”

Berger, whose birthday was actually Nov. 19, said he was caught off guard by the event held in his honor.

“It was a surprise,” he said. “I got a nice plaque. It was nice to have the acknowledgement, but they already named the courts (at Jokerst Memorial Park in Festus) after us years ago.”

The Jokerst Memorial Park pickleball courts are named after Berger and his wife, Michelle.

The plaque Berger received at the party also honored his wife and reads, “In recognition of your outstanding leadership and dedication given to the sport of pickleball.

Because of your hard work, many people of all ages have had their lives enriched through the sport and comradery of pickleball.

We wish to thank the both of you from the bottom of our hearts.

The sport of pickleball would not be what it is today without your help.”