First Posted: 5/16/2013
These guys play hardball.
Of a different sort.
The Yatesville Bocce League has blossomed into one of the largest leagues in Northeastern Pennsylvania since its formation in 1979.
Founding member Guy DePascale Sr. and the rest of the guys dusted off the jacks on Wednesday and rolled out yet another season, the group’s 34th straight.
“If you’ve ever wanted to be involved with a great group of guys, this is the league to be in,” DePascale Sr. said. “Everybody looks forward to it.”
Tossing their very first games in a field just a few feet away from their current venue, DePascale Sr., Frank Bonomo, Joe Chiumento, Doc Campanella and Mike Shannon made up the founding five members of a league that now includes 36 players from as far away as Mayfield and Clarks Summit.
In addition to distance, this league spans something even bigger – generations.
DePascale Sr. and his son, Guy Jr., were teamed up two years ago and won the league’s outright championship.
“The both of us happened to get on a team and won the whole thing together,” DePascale Sr. said.
Due in large part to the support of the Yatesville borough throughout the years, DePascale Sr. said the league was able to continuously improve their grounds, perfecting the asphalt courts while adding lighting, grills, refrigerators, a covered roof and an interactive scoreboard.
“We started building one court then went to another court and it eventually built it up to where now we have one of the best courts in the bocce field,” he said.
Perfected in its present form in Italy, the game consists of two teams each vying to bowl a bocce ball nearest to the smaller “jack.” The two four-member teams then alternate bowls until all balls have been tossed. The team with the ball closest to the jack is the only team that can score any points in a frame, with the scoring team earning one point for each.
Each game goes until a team scores 12 points.
While skill plays an important role in the competition, DePascale Sr. said the real challenge comes from the experience of the other members.
“We have guys that have the court memorized,” he said. “And they’re all very competitive.”
After so many years, the league has become about much more than the competition.
“It’s just like a big family,” Guy Pascale Jr. said. “Once you’re part of this group you’re part of the family.”
That sentiment was evidenced by a moment of silence held in honor of recently deceased league member Harold Kiesinger.
His daughter, Jane Balent, threw out the ceremonial first jack of the season in his memory.
“This meant a lot to my dad,” Balent said. “He enjoyed this and he looked forward to it. He loved to laugh with these guys and he loved to play bocce.”
Like any family, the league members support each other through difficult times.
“Harold really enjoyed the games,” DePascale Jr. said. “He had a good time with these guys and we wanted to do something for him and his family.”
After the moment of silence was observed, the first three matchups of the season were underway.
Seven of the nine teams roll three games per week, with the remaining two teams playing just two games. As the season continues on, the schedule eventually balances itself out until all teams have played the same amount of times.
Each of the nine four-man teams also has a sponsor, with many having ties to the players themselves.
The team sponsors are Old Forge Chiropractic, Roberts’ Repairs, Atlas Realty, Dyller Law Firm, JetSurge Power Cleaning and Windows, Blandina Apartments, Bassler Equipment, Cuz’s Bar & Grill and KWIK ‘N EZ Market.
With so many teams loaded with just as many crafty veterans, who is this year’s team to beat?
“Of course that’s my team,” DePascale Jr. laughed.