Bocce ball is the sport of old men in shady gardens somewhere in Tuscany. But Major League Bocce and Rebecca Campbell are bringing the classic game to the young professionals of Dallas.
An offshoot of Washington, D.C.’s bocce league, Major League Bocce Dallas began in October 2012 when Campbell was convinced by a friend to spread the lawn game down to Dallas.
“I used to live in D.C., and it had gotten really big up there,” she says. “I got to be good friends with the founders, and when I moved to Dallas, they wanted me to start the league.”
The ability to play bocce while holding a beer makes it more social than kickball or softball.
Initially apprehensive, Campbell says that the league started to become a realistic idea when a Dallas friend of hers went to D.C. and played a match. Over a bottle or two of wine, she and her friend decided that Dallas could use a bocce league.
They started out by recruiting friends and friends of friends for a two-month-long season in the fall, complete with playoffs.
For those who aren't from the old country, bocce takes place on a 30-by-6-foot gravel and dirt court. Each team has four balls, and the objective is to toss your team's ball closer to the pallina — a small target ball —than your opponent.
Of course, you can knock your opponent's balls away from the pallina, which allows for strategy, because only one team can score per round. Matches go to 14 and last 45 minutes.
The league has now completed three seasons — the last featured 12 teams and nearly 80 people — and registration is open for the next season beginning in October. The matches take place at Three Sheets, allowing for plenty of access to alcohol. Campbell says that the ability to play bocce while holding a beer and without any athletic equipment makes it a more social sport than kickball or softball.
“You have your team that you’re playing with, but you’re literally playing with the other team side by side,” she says. “You’re able to really interact. Plus you can come straight from work. We’ve had some women play in heels.”
Each team is made up of at least five members, though only two are required to be at any one match. To match the anticipated growth, the league is expanding to two nights and hopes to have a total of 24 teams and around 150 people. Even individuals can sign up and be placed on a team.
Although most of the twenty- and thirtysomethings in the league are neophytes at bocce, that hasn’t kept it from being competitive.
“It’s like any type of team sport,” she says. “There are a lot of bragging rights with winning the league. Plus the winners get a donation in their name to the charity of their choice.”
Still, the league is mostly about having a good time and meeting new people. The D.C. league has actually fostered a handful of marriages.
“It’s a good way to meet people and interact with someone you would’ve never met,” Campbell says. “It’s not like kickball, where there are a ton of people and you’re just standing in the field. It’s basically two people talking to two other people for an hour, with drinks in hand, while throwing some balls.”
Registration for Major League Bocce’s fall season is open through September 22.