Ironically the greatest tennis player in the history of Pilgrim High School and one of the most accomplished players in the history of Rhode Island high school tennis started his high school athletic …
Ironically the greatest tennis player in the history of Pilgrim High School and one of the most accomplished players in the history of Rhode Island high school tennis started his high school athletic career as a baseball player.
“I actually played baseball my freshman year at Pilgrim,” related Charlie Einsiedler, the 1971 Pilgrim grad who by his senior year at Pilgrim had become a three-time state singles tennis champion.
“In those days freshmen could not play varsity sports so I played for the Pilgrim freshmen baseball. I had played baseball growing-up and in those days, baseball was big at Pilgrim” Einsiedler said in a recent a phone interview from his home in Falmouth, Maine.
But while Einsiedler had played Little League baseball growing-up in Warwick, he also was playing tennis. When he was 12 years old, he started working with the late Charlie Swanson, a legendary Rhode Island teaching tennis professional in the 1950s and 60s.
“Charlie Swanson was a giant among men. He taught me so much about tennis and life,” said Einsiedler.
So even though he was one of the star players on the Pilgrim freshman baseball team in the spring of 1968, Einsiedler already had an idea that tennis might be his ticket to the high school spotlight.
Mr. Mezzanotte was the varsity baseball coach and also a math teacher at school,” Einsiedler offered about the late Don Mezzanotte, “One day in the spring of my freshman year, he saw me in the corridor at school and said, ‘Are you coming out for baseball next year? I think you could be my starting second-baseman.
“I told him I might play tennis next year because I think I can win the state championship.”
Einsiedler wasn’t over-estimating his tennis potential.
He rolled to the title in RIIL state singles tournament in his first year of high school competition in the spring of 1969, defeating a few upper-classmen All-Staters enroute to the title. He then captured the state title again in his junior year in 1970 and again in his senior year in 1971.
When he won his third state crown in 1971, according to available Interscholastic League records, he was the first player in the 35-year year history of the state singles tournament to win three state titles.
Even today, 52 years after his high school graduation Einsiedler is one of only nine players who have won three boys state singles tennis championships.
“He was an extremely intelligent player,” Bob Coker, the Pilgrim High tennis coach during Einsiedler’s high school career offered about his star player.
Einsiedler wasn’t a physically big player, but he had a big game in terms of shot-arsenal.
“Charlie was only 5-9, but he could hit a lot of different shots most players of that era couldn’t hit,” Coker said “He didn’t have an overpowering serve, but he had a great kick serve. I remember one time in the state tournament he was playing a kid who was one of the top players in the state and also was about 6-4. Charlie served an ace by kicking the ball so high it went over the other kid’s head so he could reach it.”
A National Honor Society student in high school, Einsiedler went-on to Williams College following his graduation from Pilgrim.
A serious skiing accident in the winter of his freshman year at Williams kept Einsiedler off the tennis court in his first year of college. But by his sophomore year he was back on the court and he eventually became both the Williams’s No. 1 singles player and a member of the Ephs top doubles team.
These days Williams is a member of NESCAC, the conference of academically elite NCAA Division III schools like Williams, Amherst, Wesleyan and Trinity.
But the NESCAC had not yet been formed when Einsiedler was a student at Williams so most of his collegiate competition came against Ivy League and Service Academy teams.
“The NESCAC did not yet exist so the only D-III schools on our schedule were our arch rivals Amherst and Wesleyan” Einsiedler offered about his college days. “The highlights (of his career) were beating the Yale No. 1 player in singles and going undefeated in doubles in dual matches in both my junior and senior years,” said Einsiedler.
Einsiedler attended Boston University Law School after graduating from Williams then began a long career practicing law in the Portland, Maine area.
“I stopped playing competitive tennis in law school and never picked it back-up.” “Career, kids, injuries and – and my declining skills - got in the way,” Einsiedler, the father of three grown children, said with a slight laugh.
But eight years ago, Einsiedler discovered he hadn’t lost that type of competitive spirit which made him a three-time state champion during his days at Pilgrim High
“I took up pickleball, which rekindled my competitive spirit,” said Einsiedler, who retired from his active law practice in January.
It’s probably not surprising that Einsiedler hasn’t just “picked-up” pickleball. He now has added pickleball awards to his impressive high school and college tennis resume.
“I’ve had some pretty good results in national and regional tournaments in my age group,” Einsiedler offered about his pickleball career.
Teaming with his wife in mix-doubles, the husband & wife duo have won pickleball medals at national Senior Olympic events as well as six age-group gold medals at the Atlantic Regional championships.
“My wife and I really enjoyed the competition and the people involved. But when Covid hit we stopped traveling and playing,” said Einsiedler. “Things are getting back to normal, so maybe we will start playing again – maybe not. We’ll see”
But regardless of whether he adds to his impressive amateur athletic resume, he knows his days in Warwick laid the foundation for a very fulfilling life.
“I have some orthopedic issues, but overall, I feel great,” said Einsiedler. “I have been a very fortunate man.”
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