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The Right Approach...Views on the world of bowling.

Volume 3, Issue 9, The 113th Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez

      Many kids want to be near their sports idols. I'm sure there are thousands of kids who dream of being bat boy in the dugout with their favorite baseball players. Ever since our trip to Las Vegas last year, my son Michael has been waiting to be a PBA caddy. Where else can you get so close to bowling's best players?

      Last year's schedule didn't include a stop in Southern California, and this year, I quietly hoped for a stop that didn't require a travel agent. We wouldn't be so lucky, but thankfully, The Orleans Casino Open was only a one-hour flight away, and with a backpack full of homework, we were off to live a dream.

      We arrived late Tuesday evening, long after qualifying was over. With the stat sheets piled high on the PBA publicity table, we gleaned who had made matchplay, and Michael perused the list with eagerness. While some of his favorite players had missed the cut, he had the determination of a Hollywood hopeful bent on stardom: He was in Las Vegas, and he was going to caddy. The bad news was matchplay began at 8 am the next morning--a time that no one is even thinking of bowling, let alone planning on being in a bowling center. So much for that "turn it into a vacation" idea. This would be like a work/school day complete with a predawn alarm. Thankfully, we were staying at the Orleans, so there was no drive time to contend with.

      Since we checked into our rooms just before midnight, I knew that 6:30 wakeup call would be a bear. I didn't need to be fully awake, but I'm sure I used enough hot water in the shower for two or three rooms that morning. My son's too old to need help getting dressed, but I pretty much rolled him into his clothes, and pushed him toward the elevator. My husband suggested just forgetting about it, and not to push, but I didn't want an early start time to deny my night owl of what he'd been dreaming of.

      After a quick stop at the coffee bar, and a cherry danish to go, we were riding the escalators up to the bowling center. There were a few pros in the center, warming up, but no one who didn't have to be there. We were looking for Rick Benoit, the Brunswick tour rep, who would help Michael find a bowler brave enough to take on a 10-year-old caddy/fan. As soon as Michael spotted Rick, he darted to him. Rick came back a few minutes later to tell him he'd be caddying for David Ozio.

      Suddenly, I was feeling maternal guilt. Did I push him into this? Could he really do the job? Thirty-two pound ball bags for an adult aren't the easiest thing to carry, and there was Michael, straining to carry a bag that was over one-third of his body weight. David seemed to be the only pro bowling who didn't have a roller bag, as an entire Brunswick shipment had been stolen from a previous PBA stop. At one point, David looked at Michael and deadpanned, "Next time, I want you to carry two of the bags." It was probably lack of sleep, but it took Michael a good 15 seconds to realize he was teasing.

      Michael finished up the morning squad, and we got around to eating real food. Even David must have thought Michael might not make it through another squad, because Michael mentioned David had asked if he would return for the afternoon block. But 2 p.m. came, and Michael was ready to go.

      Pros may have caddies, but what I didn't realize is that little caddies end up with caddies of their own. Just before each match would end, he'd come up to the concourse, hand me his soda, and ask where they'd be moving next. As soon as the last shot was thrown, Michael was out of his seat, grabbing the bag, and making his way down to the next pair. As the afternoon went along, more and more fans showed up and seating was scarce. Often it'd take a few minutes for me to make eye contact with Michael so he knew I was still there.

      Michael finished that afternoon, and despite a lot of probing from both his parents, he smiled a lot, but didn't say much. This isn't surprising, since the question "What did you do in school today?" gets the same kind of response. It wasn't until I got out of the shower the next morning that I realized what the trip meant to him: Michael was dressed and ready to go without me saying a word.

      With matchplay squads at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m., there were no local kids out of school to caddy. I was glad Michael got the chance, but thought sadly for the local kids who missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime. Michael's already talking about next year, and I can only hope that the PBA either gets a little closer to Southern California, or we'll be spending another "working" vacation in Las Vegas.

Gotta Split,

Angel


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