Volume 2, Issue 4, The 56th Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
Here I go again, the proud mom gushing about the littlest bowler in the family again. Please forgive me if you have trouble with warm fuzzies.
He did it again. Michael absolutely amazed me with both his luck and his mettle. For those keeping score, my eight-year-old, Michael, is the latest PBA fan in the family. When I watch him, I remember that the word fan is short for fanatic. He's been bugging me to bowl the PBA National Tour pro am since he bowled a PBA regional pro am back in September. I waited and waited, until late last week to sign him up. I even paid an extra $5 because I missed the early bird registration, but the woman assured me there would be room for him to bowl.
So we get up early on a Sunday--Father's Day no less, drive an hour to get to the center, and we check him in. I honestly haven't bowled a pro am in nearly ten years, because I got a little frustrated with the pros that I drew on my pair each time. I honestly thought I was a true bowling fan back then, but in three events, spaced over several months, out of the nine players I bowled with, I had been only really jazzed to bowl with one--Randy Pederson. And even then he had hit his ankle with the ball so hard one game earlier that he barely was able to finish the game. Several of the others weren't even listed in the programs. So given my luck, I had tried to prepare the child for the fact that in pro ams sometimes you bowl with players that you might not see on TV every week.
Now it was getting close to showtime. Mom and Dad were sitting in the bleachers, and Michael was getting to know two boys on his pair. The center didn't make any effort to segregate the kids by age, and the three younger boys were communing over trading cards and Gameboys, while the older kids paced nervously. The players started walking to their lanes. We're down at one end, quite a ways from the paddock, so I can't see who's coming our way. The first player I see is, Justin Hromek, and I think "Oh cool!" Nope, he walks down a few pairs. Drat.
Craning, I'm trying to see who's next. Randy Pederson. Ooooh, déjà vu! Nope, he went down the other way. I hoped he didn't hit his ankle again this time. Finally, Billy Myers, Jr., ventured our way, and put his stuff down on the pair Michael was on. Great. He's a hometown guy, being from SoCal, so the other parents started to get excited too. Mario mentioned he was Rookie of the Year in 1995, which I'd forgotten. Then on the pair to the left of him, Walter Ray Williams, Jr., set his ball carriers down. And I thought, "WOW, Michael's two for two." Wrong again, Mom. Michael's third pro was one of his absolute favorites (and mine, too), Tommy Delutz, Jr.
Forget the "game faces" of high-pressure telecasts. The pro ams are where the pros relax. And I give the guys who bowl with the kids a lot of credit. Not only do they have to contend with gutter balls, potty breaks, and occasional lapses in lane courtesy, they get to deal with well-meaning parents who all believe their child is just one secret away from the pro tour. Being so far back, I couldn't hear a lot of the exchanges, but Michael seemed to have plenty to say, and the players each listened. The interactions and facial expressions were priceless.
The scoring format was the ever-popular 3-6-9 format, and for little guys this is much better than no-tap, since getting a nine count is as much a cause for celebration as getting a strike. So imagine my surprise when he proceeded to actually mark on either side of many of these "freebies." Michael shot 112-122-86, all much over his average. His pros bowled pretty well, too, so there's some hope that he'll actually get a trophy for his efforts. But if he doesn't, I think the memories alone are plenty.
I've already prodded, and he's being diplomatic by saying he had no favorites of the three he bowled with, and that's probably for the best. We'll be going back later in the week for our now annual pilgrimage to watch a couple of rounds of the tournament. He may be bitten by the PBA bug, but I know where he got it from in the first place.