On the grueling Professional Bowlers Association tour, the first 300 game and the first tournament victory are certainly rites of passage. But perhaps the truest sign of arrival -- a commitment to the nomadic way of life and, paradoxically, an indicator of stability -- is the purchase of a motor home.
Danny Wiseman has arrived -- in a 37 1/2 -foot trailer hauled by a Chevy pickup truck.
This week, the Dundalk native and his wife, Lisa, have parked their lodging at Country Club Lanes on Pulaski Highway. Wiseman has taken a week off to prepare his title defense in next week's $150,000 Fair Lanes PBA Open at Kings Point in Randallstown.
"I just needed a week off from the travel," he said. "The first six weeks of the year we've been across the country. It's time for a break."
Wiseman, 23, won two titles and $81,156 last year, placing 16th on the tour. This season he has cashed in three of the six tournaments thus far, earning $6,170 and missing the televised finals by just 20 pins in one of them. But, he said, the grind is affecting his performance.
No wonder. The Wisemans left Shreveport, La., where Danny's mother now lives, and drove to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth, Winter Haven, Fla., Fort Lauderdale and, finally, to Baltimore. That's 6,000 miles so far this year -- an average commute of 1,000 miles -- just getting to the job. And you think you have problems on the beltway.
Once he's at a tournament site, the real work begins. John Henry, the mythical steel drivin' man, swung a 9-pound hammer. Including pro-ams, practice games and tournament competition, Wiseman calculated that he swings his 16-pound Hammer (that's the brand name of the Baltimore-made ball he uses) about 1,000 times each week.
So much repetitive motion and stress results in some common injuries on the PBA tour. "Calluses ripping off, tendinitis of the wrist, fingers and elbows, knee problems," Wiseman said. "A lot of guys go to chiropractors," because the tour doesn't have a traveling sports therapist.
Wiseman, though, isn't injured. "I'm working on my mental game," he said. "It's 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical right now . . . My physical game is pretty good right now. It's the concentration part, the focusing."
In just his second full year on the tour, toughening his mental approach to the game is something new. "I've never been out on tour and hit this before," he said. "It's like burnout. You overthink and it gets you in trouble."
He's not down about it, though, just learning to deal with the tour as others have. "Some guys bowl four weeks and take a week off no matter what," he said. "There are some weeks you have to take a break. You have to regroup yourself."
Always known as a hard worker, Wiseman is working on this, too. He's picked up two books -- "Mental Toughness Training for Sports" and "The Mental Athlete" -- to spur him. "I'm going to read these books," he said. "That's going to kick me in the butt."
For most young athletes the mental part of their game is the last to fall into place. When a baseball player gets into a groove the ball looks larger and slower as it approaches. For a basketball, hockey or soccer player, the goal increases in size. It's the same in bowling. "The target gets bigger," Wiseman said. "You know you're going to make good shots. It's just the confidence level."
The trick is to sustain that perception and performance. "My next goal is to make a show, then, the following week, make another show," he said. "It's experience. It's all learning."
And next week, in front of family and hometown fans, would be a perfect time to start.
* The $150,000 Fair Lanes PBA Open begins Sunday at Fair Lanes Kings Point, 4111 Deer Park Road, Randallstown. Baltimore's Danny Wiseman is defending champion. For ticket information, call 521-5300.
Here is the schedule of events:
* Sun., Feb. 24 -- Pro-Ams, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
* Mon., Feb. 25 -- Pro qualifying, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
* Tue., Feb. 26 -- Pro autograph/practice, 9 a.m. to noon; Pro-Ams, 1 to 11 p.m.
* Wed., Feb. 27 -- Six games in pro qualifying, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; six games in pro qualifying, 4 to 10:30 p.m.
* Thurs., Feb. 28 -- Six games pro qualifying, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; eight games match play, 7 to 10 p.m.
* Fri., March 1 -- Eight games match play, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; eight games match play, 6:15 to 10:15 p.m.
* Sat., March 2 -- TV finals, 3 to 4:30 p.m.