Practice makes perfect, and the East Hampton High School bowling team is going to have that opportunity thanks to The All Star bowling alley in Riverhead.
With The Clubhouse in East Hampton being closed until April, where the team usually practices, the school district needed to pivot to ensure the Bonackers were going to be able to get some throws in before the start of the regular season.
“We were definitely nervous — unsure of how it was going to work out — but I think between the School Board and Athletic Director Joe Vasile-Cozzo, [they] did a great job of making it happen; where we can go to All Star to both practice and play,” head coach Mike Vitulli said. “We’re so thankful for everything the school administration has done.”
Vasile-Cozzo said he’s grateful to both the School Board and management at All Star, but feels awful for what those at The Clubhouse are going through.
“I’m thankful that the All Star is going to help us out. They’re great. Everyone’s been terrific,” he said. “But I feel terrible for The Clubhouse. Scott Rubenstein felt so bad. I get it. The Rubensteins’ have done so much for this community. But they’ll come back in April, and we’ll be back there next year.”
Practices will be held Monday through Thursday, Vitulli said, but will be few and few between with Section XI being forced to condense the season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic delaying the start of high school sports. Bowling is tentatively scheduled to begin January 4, along with other non-high-risk sports like swimming and track and field.
“The schedule is so compact that it’s basically a week of practice, two games, two games, three games, three games,” Vitulli said. “But the bowlers are very excited. We have five returners. We’re hoping to get about five or six more. We should be able to gain some more interest this year with there currently being no basketball or wrestling.”
All Star manager Leonard Colucci said he was thrilled to be able to make this happen. He said when the bowling alley was approached by the district, his answer was: “Absolutely.”
“I’m happy to have them,” he said. “Whatever we can do to help.”
The manager said his bowling alley is the reason why everyone in New York was able to open.
“Nobody’s done what we’ve done through COVID-19,” Colucci said. “We have UV lighting to disinfect and sterilize bowling balls and shoes, we have partitions in-between the lanes; we’ve done a tremendous amount of stuff.”
Vasile-Cozzo said the Bonackers will also be adding on Section XI safety protocols. This includes only allowing the bowlers who will be competing that game the chance to warm up and play.
“If we have a team of 12 kids, we’ll take them all, but only the kids that are scheduled to play will bowl,” he said. “There will be no exhibitions.”
Vitulli said since his program is young — this is the team’s second season back after a four-year layoff — he tells the student-athletes to simply enjoy the process.
“We play against some of the best teams in the county,” he said. “We just tell our kids to have fun and just get better. That’s all we’re looking for. That’s what the kids have been doing, so we’re proud of them.”
The coach said for lone senior Sy Webb, he especially understands the magnitude of having the opportunity to play.
“For all of the kids they’re really looking forward to it. Their reaction has been: ‘Really? It’s happening?’” Vitulli said. “But for Sy, knowing he’s going to be able to go out one more time and compete with his classmates and for the school when other kids haven’t, it’s important. It’s a big deal for him.”