Bits & Pieces: Bocce league putting down roots in Columbia

The sport of bocce was played during the Roman Empire and, as of this past Saturday, is now being played in Columbia as well. Roughly 30 people showed up at the bocce courts off Cedar Lane to open the new league here over the weekend.

Just a month or so ago, I was in Little Italy and watched the bocce play there. I was fascinated by the strategy of the game and was equally impressed by the warmth of the people playing. They explained the game and invited us to join in.

Sports editor Carol Gralia wrote an article in the Aug. 13 issue of this newspaper that apparently brought a number of calls to Rich Waxler from interested individuals. Waxler has been trying to start a bocce league here for quite some time and I believe, with the support of the county's Recreation and Parks Department, the sport of bocce will become popular.

Currently there are two courts at Cedar Lane Park, built as part of a Boys Scout project. However, the courts are smaller than the regulation courts and they might require a better surface in the future. The hope is that regulation courts will eventually be built.

What I like about bocce, and why I think it will become popular here, is that you don't have be athletic, your age is not significant and your physical makeup is irrelevant. What will win you over is the strategy of the game.

There is an additional element that I discovered in Little Italy — bocce is a social game. Friendships are easily developed between competing players.

I found Rich to be the perfect person to bring this sport here and keep it going. One conversation with this man, who spent a career in the nursing home industry, and you are taken in by his openness and his determination. He decided after playing some bocce in Pittsburgh as a result of his marriage to Community Sports Hall of Fame member Louise Waxler that he would bring the sport to Howard County.

I recommend that even if you aren't sure about joining the league, you at least come to the Cedar Lane courts near the pavilion on Saturday morning to watch and learn. I guarantee that once you start, you will want to know more.

Howard graduate leaves mark

Joey Thompson, a 2008 graduate of Howard High and a recent Summa Cum Laude graduate of the Bryan School of Business and Economics at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, has established an enviable spot in the school's history books by breaking multiple program records.

Joey's time of 8:59.45 in the 3000-meter steeplechase currently stands as a school record. In addition, at the 2011 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Indiana, he was awarded the "Elite 89" award presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average.

Celebration of Sports turns 10

Tickets are still available to attend the 10th annual Celebration of Sports banquet scheduled for Oct. 9 at Turf Valley Resort. The keynote speaker is Scott Foster, a National Basketball Association Basketball official who has officiated at eight NBA finals.

Seven individuals will be inducted into the Howard County Community Sports Hall of Fame as part of the festivities, including Lou Chillemi, Joe Friend, Dave Grabowski, Skip McAfee, Gus Novotny, Norbert O'Donnell and Don Smith. Call 410-313-1691 for more information on obtaining tickets.

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