Elkridge boy, 7, gets an early start on road to stardom Ryan Baker on roll at Columbia lanes


September 05, 1993|By DON VITEK

Dick Weber. Pete Weber. Mark Roth. Tish Johnson. Leanne Barrette.

They didn't just blossom into outstanding professional bowlers overnight. They started young, they were coached, they practiced. Nothing has changed. The stars of tomorrow are on the lanes today.

Ryan Baker of Elkridge will be 7 years old on Nov. 1. Until last spring, he had never picked up a tenpin ball.

"A friend, Chris Jensen, took Ryan bowling last May," Ryan's mother, Mary Jo, said. "I'm a bowler, too, but Chris is the one who got him started."

Now probably no one will be able to stop him.

Ryan, a second-grader at Waterloo Elementary School, is bugging his mom for his own bowling ball.

"This was only the second week of the season," said Brad Fox, Bantam Division coach at Brunswick Columbia bowling center, "and Ryan is throwing strikes."

The Bantam Division of the YABA bowls two-game sets rather the usual three in deference to the competitors' ages, 8 years and younger.

The first week of league play, Ryan shot a 75 and 111, but on Aug. 28, he came back with a 75 and fired a superb 146 game.

"He threw strikes in the eighth, ninth and 10th frames," Fox said. "Then he filled with an eight-count that could have been another strike. I think it's remarkable that a 6-year-old, in his second week of league bowling, can throw a triple-header."

The oldest league in Howard

After reading about one of the newest tenpin bowlers, it seems appropriate that now you learn about the oldest league in Howard County.

"I know that it's been in existence for at least 25 years," Lou Bender said, "And I know it's been at Brunswick Normandy for at least 20 years because it started bowling there just after the center was built."

"It" is the Baltimore Gas and Electric League that bowls at Brunswick Normandy on Fridays at 6:30 p.m.

Bender, president of the league for 10 years, stepped down this year, and Paul Brown became president.

"I'm the very last BG&E employee bowling in the league," the retired Bender said. "I was with the company for 44 years and there was a time when every member of the league [was] a BG&E worker. I've told the league that they can change the name to anything they want any time they want since I'm the last BG&E guy and I won't feel bad about changing the name but they always say no."

Bender lives in Ellicott City with his wife, Kathryn, and started bowling duckpins as a youth, as did so many Baltimoreans of his generation.

"I've been bowling, ducks and tens, for over 50 years," he said. "And I'll keep on bowling because I just love it. Kathryn complains about it, but I still go every week."

Bender also bowls in the Thursday morning Club 55 at Normandy. He averages 178 with a high game of 265 and a high series of 630.

After so many years, it's difficult to nail down a precise year that BG&E employees started bowling.

"I have score sheets from 1979," said Joe Gartner, secretary of the league for three years. "But I know that the league goes back much, much farther."

Gartner, a Catonsville resident, has been bowling for a long time.

"I'm still using a rubber bowling ball that I've had for 28 years," he said. "So I know that I've been bowling for at least that long."

Last year he bowled only in the BG&E league, where he carries a 176 average; his career high game is 268 and his high set is 682.

"I'm probably going to bowl at Kings Point this year with my son. There's a doubles league that he's asked me to bowl in with him," Gartner said. "Maybe bowling in two leagues will help me get to that 700 series."

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