Now playing in Blackhawk and Danville: bocce ball, an ancient game that can be traced back to the Roman Empire.
After a couple of courts were built at Blackhawk Country Club's Sports Complex, Joie Spinelli, the beverage manager, introduced the idea of forming a bocce league. It took off like wildfire, with 480 members and 40 teams competing last fall, followed by 680 members with 56 teams in the spring league, which concludes this month.
"I can't tell you how much fun this has been," Joie told me. "I've had members tell me time and time again, 'It is the best thing Blackhawk has done.' " He estimates that 95 percent of the players are couples.
I've played bocce ball a few times with friends and family members and can attest that it's an easy game to learn (although not so easy to be great at it!). Players toss a small ball, called a pallino, into a designated area on the alley-like court, then take turns rolling the bocce balls underhanded to see who can get their ball closest to the pallino. The sport was developed in its present form in Italy and is highly popular in Europe.
In the Blackhawk league, teams competed one night a week at either 5:30 or 7 p.m., beginning April 14. At press time, only the Monday and Tuesday night league winners had been determined.
"We formed our own team from neighborhood friends," said Kathy Giroux, captain of the Bocce Bombers, who won the Tuesday night playoffs. "It's really fun; it
Kathy said she and her husband, Hi, had never played bocce ball before the league formation. Teammates include Sharon Barr-Day and Brandon Day, Pam and Ken Harris, Bev and Rick Shumate, Irma and Jerry Tidwell and Helen and Jim Tarantino.
Monday night's winner was the Pasta Bashers, captained by Debbie Cavin, Joie said. The six league winners will play each other on July 9, with the Grand Club Championship on July 12.
One team this year is undefeated -- Great Balls of Fire, playing on Thursday nights, with a record of 7-0. Last fall's championship team, Mission "Imbocceball," captained by Kim Bruce, was in second place in the Sunday night league at press time with a record of 7-3.
"It's a good time, each and every night," Joie said, "with the best of company."
Joie said there are also some inspirational moments. "Darryl Yeakley, a major stroke victim, has played both seasons and only missed one game. The smile and joy he brings to us all is immeasurable."
Up next? The new fall league begins Aug. 26. Meanwhile, the fun of bocce ball has spread to other clubs in the area. An inter-club bocce tournament between Blackhawk, Castlewood and Diablo country clubs begins Aug. 2, with each team guaranteed six matches. For further information, contact Joie at 925-570-9626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Town of Danville offers spring, summer and fall bocce ball leagues, with four courts located at Sycamore Valley Park. Registration for the fall league begins Aug. 6. For further information, go to www.ci.danville.ca.us/Recreation/Adults/Sports_Leagues or contact sports and fitness coordinator Ian Murdock at 925-314-3480 or email@example.com.
For casual play, courts can be rented for $10 an hour. For reservations and further information, call 925-314-3405 or complete a rental form online at http://www.ci.danville.ca.us/Parks_and_Facilities.
Contact Georgia Lambert at firstname.lastname@example.org.