In the Pocket: Derenzo’s effort earns a thumbs-up

A thumb injury to his bowling hand actually improved Mark Derenzo's game

A thumb injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Mark Derenzo, whose sizzling 245 average in the Galaxy Men’s league is one of the area’s best.

The 30-year-old right-hander hurt the thumb on his bowling hand while playing youth baseball. After giving up the game for five years, he discovered that his thumb hurt when he tried to release the ball. The result was that he started bowling without his thumb in the ball. Although it took a while to get used to his new release, which puts extra revolutions on the ball, it turned out to be a powerful weapon, especially in the Galaxy Men’s league.

“I don’t know why I’m doing so well this year,” said Derenzo, who also works part-time at Boulevard Bowl. “I do know that the entire league is bowling really well this year. I’ve been using the same thumbless release for about eight years now, so I’m not doing anything different there. When I was a junior bowler, I used my thumb, but after I gave up the game for a while, it hurt when I tried to come back. It was very painful to put the thumb in the ball, so I just took it out. It took a while to get used to it.

“At first, I averaged about 190 without my thumb in the ball. Then I got it up to 200, then 215 and then about 225. Last year, I averaged 229 in this league.”

The only recent change in Derenzo’s game was the purchase of a new ball two years ago.

“It’s funny about that ball,” said Derenzo. “I bought it off the late Cliff Gavitt about three months before he passed away. It was an Ebonite XXXL ball. He told me it hooked too much for him, so I tried it, and I liked it. Ever since then, I’ve been using the same strike ball. The only difference is that it kind of got tracked out at the end of last season, so over the summer, I put it up in my attic, where it’s very hot, and I kept wiping the ball off every few days. I think I got all the old oil out of it, and it started to work really well, especially in the Galaxy league.”

Since Derenzo hooks the ball so much from a deep inside line, he used to have problems making spares.

“I was horrible at making 10-pins before I got a plastic ball. Now, I can shoot right at the 10-pin. I make most of them, now,” he said with a laugh.

Interestingly, Derenzo averages “only” 227 in his other league at Boulevard, the Boulevard Classic on Tuesday nights.

“The only thing I can attribute the difference in averages to is that we bowl first shift on Friday nights in the Galaxy Men’s league. I like the fresh oil. On Tuesday nights, we bowl second shift, and the oil pattern is a little different. Also, it’s tougher on Tuesday nights, because we bowl four games. Almost everybody is bowling around the third or fourth arrow, and we keep pushing all the oil to the right.”

Derenzo’s bowling resume is solid. He has rolled two of his eight perfect games this season, and has four 800 triples to his credit. He collected his first 1,000 four-game series 21⁄2 years ago when he used to bowl in the Jack Scaccia NFL league on Sundays.

“I don’t do much tournament bowling because of my schedule,” said Derenzo. “My full-time job is at the OTB Smith Street branch, and working part-time at Boul­evard means that I don’t have too many Sundays off. Besides, most of my spare time I like to spend with my kids. One is 7 years old and the other is 4 years old. They’re my whole life. I spend every chance I get with them.”

Derenzo vows that he will try to participate in some Huck Finn tournaments when his schedule permits. He hopes to compete in the upcoming Huck Finn doubles next month at Boulevard.

“I’m not really a great bowler anyway,” he said with a laugh. “I just like to have fun when I bowl. It’s a night out with my friends. It’s more like a sport for me. It’s just something to do. I don’t take it too seriously.”

Derenzo, an avid Yankees’ fan, said the recent death of former Dodgers’ pitcher Johnny Podres hit him hard, even though he didn’t pitch for his favorite team.

“While working at OTB, I used to take bets from Johnny Podres,” Derenzo said. “He wasn’t a big bettor, but he used to call his bets in all the time. When I first started taking the bets, I didn’t know who he was, but I was shocked to find out that he was such a famous baseball player. The ironic part is that my father, who also works at OTB, used to take Podres’ bets when he worked at the Queensbury OTB branch.”

Although Derenzo downplays his abilities, averaging 245 in any league is quite an achievement. Perhaps, if he finds the time, he should take the game more seriously. He obviously has the talent.


The Northern Bowlers Assoc­iation, which will host its fourth tournament of the season Sunday at Sunset Recreation at 1:30 p.m., rather than the usual 10 a.m., is having a banner season.

The NBA’s last event, held in

December at Hometown Lanes, drew 54 bowlers, while the Stockade Open at Boulevard had 57 entries.

“Without a doubt, it’s more enjoyable to see that many guys who want to compete. It keeps me busy for three hours,” said NBA tourn­ament director Karl Bieber. “I don’t know if we’re over the hurdle of what people used to think about the old NBA regime, but I think people realize now that we run a quality tournament. I think we’ve established that we’re a legitimate tournament organization, and that we know what we’re doing.”

Bieber said the only complaint he’s heard is about scoring conditions, which were quite high at Hometown Lanes.

“It depends on who you talk to whether the bowlers like the con­ditions or not,” Bieber said. “We try to negotiate with the prop­rietors about having a competitive condition. I like to see lower scores myself. I don’t like 240s and 250s every game. But with today’s equipment, no matter what kind of shot you put out, somebody will find a good shot. The key thing is that after three or four games, there are still a bunch of guys in the mix to win the tournament. That keeps the interest up.

“The bottom line is that if the guys think the shot is too easy, all they’ve got to do is stay focused and concentrate. For the top 25 guys in this area from within 60 miles or so, if they make the right decisions and use the right equipment on the lanes, they can be competitive, and still have a chance to win the tournament. We try to do the best we can. We ask for tougher conditions, but sometimes, the proprietor tries to put out that condition, and it just doesn’t work out. Still, if there are between five and 15 guys who still have a chance to win the tourn­ament in the last game, I think we’re doing our job.”

There will be $300 added to the prize fund for this week’s event, which will be limited to the first 64 bowlers.


u Amsterdam native Dan Furman, now living in Latham, won the latest Huck Finn/Northeast Bowling Proprietors of New York “Capital Region Bowling Show” scratch tournament at Del Lanes. Eric Stangle of Ballston Spa was second, while Jeff Keegan and Dustin Paupst tied for third. The brother-sister combination of Debbie and Bob Schoonmaker won the Huck Finn’s Mixed Doubles tourn­ament, also at Del Lanes. Kate Messemer and her father, Ron Gardner, were second. Tied for third were the husband-wife combination of Joey Johnson and Deann Johnson and Jessica DeCrescente with boyfriend Lee Aiezza. The next scratch qualifiers will be Jan. 26 at Playdium Bowling Center at 1 and 3 p.m. and Jan. 27 at Uncle Sam Lanes at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. For more inform­ation, contact Jeff Segel at 371-1444.

u Matt Roberts rolled a 300 game this week for Mohonasen High School in a match with Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake. In that same match, Roberts’ teammate, Tom Egan, fired a 299-812.

u Bonnie Arbitrio teamed with Marie Moorhead for a 1,325 to win the “A” division of the 500 Club Snowball Doubles tournament at Sportsman’s Bowl. Marianne Hogle and Debby Kreifels finished second with a 1,316, followed by Julie

DeBie and Andrea Gaffney with a 1,313. In the “B” division, Wanda Sardynski and Donna Rivers took first with a 1,288, followed by Kathy Stachnick and Dana Carroll with a 1,276.

u The Susan G. Komen Bowl for the Cure tournament will be held Feb. 2 at 1 p.m. at Burnt Hills Lanes. A no-tap format will be used. Entry fee is $20, which includes shoes. There will also be prizes, raffles and food available. Call Burnt Hills Lanes for more information at 399-8421.

u The sixth annual Joe Donato Scratch Singles Tournament will have its first qualifier Feb. 23 at

3 p.m. at Uncle Sam Lanes in Troy. First-place prize will be $4,000 guaranteed. Entry fee will be $40. Aiezza is the defending champion. Other past champions are Jerry Brunette Jr. (2006), Gene Speenburgh (2005), Mike Drexel (2004) and Steve Wagoner (2003). Last year, the tournament paid out $22,260. More information on the rest of the qualifiers will follow in subsequent weeks. The finals will be held March 16 at Sportsman’s Bowl. For more information, see

u Sportsman’s Bowl’s Tavern Tournament will be held Feb. 17. The format will be five-person teams bowling three games. Hand­icap will be 100 percent of 220. First place will be $500 guaranteed. One in six teams will cash, based on 28 teams. Entry fee is $100 per team. Call Sportsman’s at 355-4330 for more information.

u One of the sport’s most prestigious events, the United States Bowling Congress Masters, will reunite with the tradition-rich USBC Open Championships next season. The two events, which were together from the Masters inception in 1951 until 2001, will be conducted at Cashman Center in Las Vegas in 2009. The Masters is tentatively scheduled to be held Feb. 8-15, 2009, with the Open Championships beginning shortly thereafter.

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