Pingpong has long been considered a "basement sport," but for those who don't have the luxury of buying their own table, there are a few places to play and at least two clubs to join in the Baltimore area.

The Baltimore Table Tennis Club, which has been in existence for 40 years, meets three times a week at Old Court Middle School.

Typically, the club gets together Monday and Thursday nights from 8 to 10:30 and Saturday or Sunday mornings from 8 to noon. The club is run under the umbrella of the Liberty Road Rec Council.

The club uses 12 tables and according to its oldest member, 85-year-old Andy Biagione of Lutherville, "We try to make everyone welcome. A lot clubs are very cliquey; it's hard to break in."

As for beginners, Biagione said, "We try to find a place for them to play."

Biagione used to be an avid tennis player, but finding available courts was often a problem, as was being able to play year-round.

Biagioni plays pingpong three days a week.

"It's a great sport," he said. "You can exercise all parts of your body except for your left arm (or right arm for those who are left-handed). It has nothing to do with the season. You bring your equipment and play."

Membership is $60 for the year. The club's coach, Boris Safire, was a national coach in the former Soviet Union. Safire is available for private lessons.

Two members recently won national championships: 19-year Peter Lee took the Senior national title, and Morty Greenberg, 81, won the over-80 crown.

According to membership chairman Irving Goldstein, the club has about 65 members.

Goldstein also helps run programs on Monday and Wednesday nights at the Park Heights Jewish Community Center and on Tuesday night at the Owings Mills JCC.

There is also the Maryland Table Tennis Association, which oversees the Howard County and Carroll County table tennis clubs and operates out of a location in the Carrolltown Mall.

"Next to Kmart," said MTTA founder and president Yvonne Kronlage.

Kronlage, who started the organization 15 years ago, said most Marylanders are unaware of the MTTA's existence, which might account for its limited membership of around 20 diehards.

It could also be the cost — $40 a month, as well as walk-in fees of $10 for everyone but juniors and seniors, who pay $8. Kronlage said the organization offers play on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7 to 10 p.m., a Friday-night league from 7 to 10 and two Saturday tournaments a month.

Kronlage, who will turn 76 this week, started playing as a 21-year-old after moving from her native England.

"If you want to lose weight and have fun doing it, you can do it by playing table tennis," she said.

Like the Baltimore Table Tennis club, the MTTA is for players of all ages and skill levels.

"You don't have to be great to play in the tournament," she said.

Kronlage discourages people interested in pingpong from going out and buying a table first.

Maybe ever.

"Most tables in the basement end up being a place to fold clothes," she said.

don.markus@baltsun.com