Boccie ball isn’t the kind of game you’d expect to play indoors, after dark — or at a bar. But indeed, the sport is the star of a newly launched rec league for adults in Patchogue.
Being a weeknight, “there’s not much else to do,” says Tom Natale, 41, of Medford, who with his wife, Kristen, was among those lined up outside 89 North for the league’s introductory open house night.
“It’s definitely different,” says Eric Freese, 33, a graphic designer from Patchogue, who with his wife, Nicole, came without an understanding of how to play the game.
At 89 North, play is sanctioned by the Chicago-based American Bocce Co., which installs courts and organizes social leagues at bars and park spaces.
Teams of four players throw red or green balls (called “bowls”) down a 30-foot turf court, hoping to land as close as possible to a smaller white ball (the jack). A referee calls close shots, sometimes deploying a tape measure.
Not that anyone takes the game here too seriously. The rules also state players have to hold a beverage (not necessarily alcoholic) in one hand while throwing with the other.
“It’s not like what I’m used to,” admits 72-year-old Joe Gannone, a contractor from Patchogue who has played the game throughout his life outdoors at parks and yards. “But I like that I could play boccie all winter here. . . . I think I’ll be back.”
The bar has two courts for play, meaning only four teams can face off at a time. That sends those waiting for their match to the bar to grab drinks, spectate or socialize. On the first night, participants were 30-somethings through senior citizens. Leagues run in seven-week cycles and organizers will match solo players into four-member teams. Spectators are fair game to act as substitutes as needed.
“I came down here with no idea what to expect, and now I’m meeting people all night,” says Laura Scattareggia, 52, a teacher from Ronkonkoma. She, like many present, say they heard about the boccie night through social media.
“I got a text from my friend that I needed to check this out,” explains Joe Mitola, a 66-year-old retiree from Deer Park. He’s already a league player in his condominium complex, “and I wanted to see what this is all about.” He likes the idea of the added exercise, although he contemplates whether holding a drink while shooting is fitness-friendly, “It’s not normally how it’s done, but hey, this is working for me,” he says.
As the night unfolds, the more experienced players are hurling with direction and success. The beginners are chucking with verve, but missing more and scoring less. But there’s a social game, too, with people who were strangers at 6:30 p.m. hitting it off well enough two hours later to form their own team for regular league play.
“We really like this, and we want it to grow,” says Kristen Natale, 37.
Adds Scattareggia, “I had no idea what I was in for, and I just love this.”
WHEN | WHERE 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Tuesdays at 89 North, 89 N. Ocean Ave., Patchogue. Ages 21 and older.
INFO 631-730-8992, 89northmusic.com
THE ROLL Teams of four play two games per night in seven-week seasons. Teams must register in advance at americanbocceco.com and the league will match single players into teams. Substitute players are permitted. Spectators welcome.
COST $69 a player or $260 per team