On any given summer evening, if one is looking for some extra entertainment, there are plenty of opportunities to check out one of the fastest growing sports around Ashtabula — bocce.
It’s a sports for all ages and for both genders. There are plenty of people well into their 80s participating in some league in town. It’s quite popular for women, too.
If one really wants to see the game played at a high level, the opportunity is again presenting itself with the fourth annual Warren G. Andrews Bocce Tournament, which will be held Saturday and Sunday. The courts at the Sons of Italy Lodge and East Ashtabula Club, both located on Columbus Avenue, will be teeming with activity.
The tournament was started by the family of Warren Andrews, one of the founding fathers of the Ashtabula County Touchdown Club and an inaugural inductee into the Ashtabula County Football Hall of Fame. Net proceeds from the event help support the Warren G. Andrews Scholarship, an award handed out each year in December at the Touchdown Club Awards Banquet. The recipient is awarded $2,000, to be split evenly between their freshman and sophomore years of college.
Twenty-four teams from Ashtabula, Cleveland, Wickliffe, Erie and other points in Northeast Ohio and northwestern Pennsylvania are expected for the tournament. Among the teams expected to be on hand is the Warren Italian-American Club, which has won the tournament championship all three years it has been held.
Tournament director Mark Andrews believes there is a good chance the three-time defending champions are ripe to be dethroned.
“I think there’s a good chance they’ll be unseated,” he said. “There are some teams coming in from Wickliffe, Cleveland and Erie that are all top-notch.
“I think there are going to be some Ashtabula teams that are going to have a good chance, too. I think at least a couple of the Ashtabula teams are going to be sort of all-star teams, so I think they’ll have a good chance.”
There’s plenty of motivation, too. The championship team splits a $1,200 prize, while the runner-up squad earns $1,000. The top six teams will receive some payout.
But the real bonus is for any spectator who stops by just to take in the action, which begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Sons of Italy and EAC lodges. There is no admission charge for the tournament, even for the finals, which will be held exclusively at the Sons of Italy starting at 11 a.m. Sunday. The tournament is expected to wrap up at approximately 4 p.m. that day.
Donations to the Andrews Scholarship Fund can be made by those attending the tournament during their visit. FMI, contact Mark Andrews at 998-6835.
Lakeside High School graduate Anthony Colucci, who was the recipient of the 2009 Andrews Scholarship, will kick off the tournament by tossing the first paulino, or target ball. Also, Joe Pete — aka, The King of Ashtabula County Media — will broadcast a special edition of his Sports Report show live from the Sons of Italy Lodge courts from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday.
All Andrews is looking for now, in addition to great competition, is good weather.
“I just hope it stays dry and it’s not too hot,” he said.
“I think it’s going to be a great tournament.”