Indoor boccie court bowls over players

Games: The `unbelievable' facility in Highlandtown means players no longer have to take a winter hiatus from the sport.

January 04, 2004|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

For die-hard boccie players, winters in Baltimore have typically meant a gloomy hiatus from Little Italy's outdoor courts. What Baltimore lacked, many lamented, was an indoor boccie court - like the kinds some of the players had competed on in tournaments as far away as Canada.

That all changed yesterday in the gymnasium of a church in Highlandtown.

Including the Little Italy regulars and a foursome from Delaware, boccie players descended on Our Lady of Pompei Roman Catholic Church off Conkling Street for the opening - and blessing - of what organizers called the first regulation-size indoor court in Maryland.

Their eyes lit up as they walked into the gym and took in the court: an 80-by-14-foot carpeted expanse bounded by thick planks of wood painted in the colors of the Italian flag: green, white and red.

"Unbelievable. ... This is unbelievable," said Alessandro Marcozzi, 52, of Bel Air as he strolled the court's length.

Organizers plan to use the court on Fridays and Saturdays and for tournaments on Sundays. They expect the winter season to run from late September through April - or until it's warm enough to play with regularity outdoors.

The court has everything serious boccie players need, including a manual scoreboard and a tape measure used to settle disputes about which player's ball is closest to the smaller ball, called the pallini.

The dream of an indoor court began three years ago, said Domenic Petrucci, 51, a parish member who built the court. Petrucci was looking for a place big enough to house an indoor court when the Rev. Luigi Esposito, the pastor of Our Lady of Pompei, suggested that he consider the church's little-used gym, in the heart of the Italian-American community in Highlandtown.

"We did this for the community, to bring people to Highlandtown," said Petrucci, who is a regular at the public courts in Little Italy in warmer months.

"Then, when the good weather comes, everybody goes back to Little Italy because, really, boccie is an outdoor game."

Esposito, who has been at the church since 1964, supported the idea of an indoor court because it dovetailed with his efforts to help revitalize Highlandtown. He said the dozens of players who will come into the neighborhood each weekend will help with church donations and purchases from local businesses.

"This is turning out to be another initiative to let people know that Highlandtown is alive and well," Esposito said.

Yesterday afternoon, Esposito gathered the players and their guests for a short prayer and blessed the court with holy water. The participants then feasted on pasta dishes, deli cuts, cakes and cookies.

"It's a game meant to bring together old friends and make new friends," said Esposito, who said he is a boccie novice.

If the court is a success, Petrucci and others said, they could add another indoor court in the remaining space in the gym.

But as players rolled balls down the court yesterday, some said they had to get accustomed to the dynamics and playing conditions of the court, whose wood beams and brown carpeting can be set up or disassembled in 20 minutes.

The carpeting allows the balls to travel faster and farther than does the fine grit of crushed sand on most outdoor boccie courts, some players said.

"Once you get used to it, it's OK," said Fabio Giachini, 70, of Bel Air.

For Roberto Ascenzi, 66, of Bel Air, who played boccie in the street with stones when he was a child in Italy, the indoor court was "beautiful."

Ascenzi said, "I've seen a lot of indoor courts, but this is the best."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.