Guest Post: Bocce Ball – It’s Not Just for Your Grandpa

Because I’m out of town this week for work and my sister-in-law’s wedding, I asked Allison Kretz to stop by the blog and write about Cleveland’s newest sports league: Major League Bocce.

A bocce ball league is coming to Cleveland this winter

A bocce ball league is coming to Cleveland this winter

Major League Bocce, the nation’s largest organized bocce league, has found its way to Cleveland, bringing with it a fresh take on a sport steeped in tradition and heritage.  It’s true. You no longer have to be retired to enjoy this refined Italian game.  Major League Bocce is bending the rules and breaking traditions to make bocce ball available where and when it’s convenient to you – AT THE BAR! You were going to be there anyway…  Why not commit to 7 weeks of tossing balls and tossing back brews one night a week at a local watering hole?  Games are literally played right at the bar, on the court at Stone Mad Pub in the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood.

Not familiar with the sport of bocce?  Here’s a quick tutorial:  Two teams compete with four balls each, attempting to get their team’s balls closest to the target, a smaller white ball called the pallina.  Games are played for 45 minutes or until a team reaches 14 points.  Players can toss their balls closer to the pallina, hit the pallina to maneuver it away from an opponent’s ball or closer to their team’s balls, or knock opponents’ balls out of the way. And don’t forget, it only takes one hand to toss a bocce ball, leaving the other one free to hold a frosty beverage. 

I first discovered bocce ball for people my age shortly after moving to the Columbia Heights neighborhood in Washington DC for a two-year fellowship. I was walking to the store to buy some plastic furniture for my little studio apartment, when I found myself behind a girl in a t-shirt that read “Major League Bocce: Play, Drink, Score”. I went home and googled and found this bocce league that had divisions in neighborhoods all over the city, and even hosted other events like a summer rafting trip.

From the looks of it, the league was the perfect way to get to know some people in this city that I had just moved to. So, the next week I rounded up some co-workers, and thus the “Bocceholics” were born. We weren’t good, but we sure did have lots of fun after work!

Major League Bocce's DC League: Bocceholics


The following spring we played again, this time outdoors, under the team name “Mr. Gorbocce, Tear Down This Ball”. We got a little better the second time around, with the help of some new players, but I think making up clever team names and hearing what everyone else came up with was just as important as how many points we scored!

Major League Bocce: Mr. Gorbocce, Tear Down This Ball

Mr. Gorbocce, Tear Down This Ball

It was during that spring season that I found out I was going to be transferring back to Cleveland after my fellowship ended. I couldn’t wait to move back to the Midwest, but I was bummed about leaving this kooky bocce world behind. That’s when it hit me…Cleveland has a critical mass of young adults that just might love bocce just as much as I do. And since the folks at Stone Mad Pub definitely love bocce (I mean they have a court inside their bar!) it was the perfect opportunity to debut Major League Bocce in Cleveland, OH.

This Winter, Major League Bocce will be hosting its inaugural season on Tuesday evenings at Stone Mad Pub in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood.  Teams play once a week for 6 weeks, and then at the end of the season everyone participates in a single elimination tournament culminating in the crowning of a champion team. The winners get trophies, bragging rights, and a donation in their name to a local charity. Bonus: Everyone makes the playoffs so you don’t have to be an expert to get started.

Fueled by beers and an arsenal of ball jokes, Major League Bocce looks like it’s the best preventative treatment for seasonal affective disorder that you’ll find in town this winter.  Register to get in on the bocce action.  Games start the week of January 21st.

Born in Toledo, Allison initially moved to Cleveland to attend law school at Case Western Reserve University. She moved back to Cleveland in August 2013 and joined her fiancé and their cat, Chairman Meow Zedong, in an apartment in the Warehouse District that’s twice the size and half the price of her studio apartment in DC.

Cleveland skyscape

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  1. That’s so cool! I played bocce on a women’s league in Mayfield Hts. and I was the youngest person playing by at least 30 years!

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