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Alley Oops strikes back

Community: After missing playoffs in fall, Senior Center’s Wii bowling team takes aim at spring

Posted: April 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Bernie Katz wears a “turkey” hat, indicating that he got three strikes in a row, as he bowls using the Wii controller at the SCV Senior Center on Tuesday.

 

Alley Oops is back and, this time, they’re talking turkey — as in three consecutive strikes of Wii bowling, that is.

The team, composed of members of the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, narrowly missed the National Senior League Wii Bowling fall playoffs in 2010, coming in fifth.

Now, Alley Oops has made it to the final four for the spring competition, and is ready to take the title on May 3.

Decked out in matching light-blue polo shirts, provided by sponsor Santa Clarita Valley Medical Society, many of the returning members have dramatically improved their game, regularly bowling in the mid- to high-200s and bowling turkeys, which temporarily earns the player the honor of wearing a turkey hat while practicing.

Richard Hitchcock, 83, of Saugus, is the league’s high scorer, with a 299.

“I missed by one,” he said gruffly. “But we beat the national champions last week, so I think we have a good chance of winning.”

Winning is important, but there are other factors as to what makes Wii bowling so enjoyable, as Terri Wahl-Folbre, 73, of Canyon Country, pointed out.

“This is fun and relaxing. I work all week, so this is my whoopee time,” she said.

Alley Oops players practice twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, at the Senior Center, utilizing a private room with a eight-game season — one against each team in the conference. Scores are turned into the league every week via email.

Teams must have a minimum of five players and a maximum of eight, with four players bowling in each game. One match game is bowled. Anyone 55 or older is eligible for league membership.

At 63, Alley Oops coach Babi Walz of North Hills is the youngest player on the team. However, she would probably get “most valuable player” for cajoling and encouraging her team to new leaves of greatness.

“I do yell a lot,” she said. “These people know how to bowl, but I show them where to go for a spare. For strikes, it’s more individual; you have to push and follow through in individual ways for each person.”

So far, the strategy is working for Mary Gallant, 87, of Valencia, who’s playing with Alley Oops again this year. As she attempted a tough spare, Gallant dropped to her knees and waved her hands to the left, virtually willing the ball to hit the pin.

“My game is up. I’ve had over 200 a couple of times. I’ve been bowling spare after spare, more than anyone else here. I’m the spare queen,” Gallant said with a smile. “I have a lot of fun. This is exercise, and really stimulating — probably the most stimulating activity here at the center, in my opinion.”

Team captain Bernie Katz has been temporarily incapacitated by a bout of emphysema, but recently returned to the center to cheer his team on as they practiced.

“I ran the team from my hospital room,” Katz said with a wink.

He now Wii-bowls from the comfort of his new burgundy scooter, which also holds his oxygen tanks.

“For what happened to Bernie, he still plays really well, scoring over 200 every time,” Walz said.

Win, lose or draw, according to Katz, anyone is welcome to come and enjoy the Wii proceedings. His toddler grandson, John Duncan, is an active cheerleader, crawling among the participants. Walz’s black Pomeranian, Spooky, also trots around, providing canine comedy relief.

“It’s all about camaraderie and friendship. It’s companionship, especially for people like me, with a new handicap, or who haven’t been well,” Katz said. “What makes it so nice is whether you walk in on the game with your legs, a scooter or a walker, it’s all for one and one for all.”

For more information on the National Senior League Wii Bowling team at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, call (661) 259-9444 or visit www.scvsc.org. The center is located at 22900 Market St., Newhall.

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