Two months ago in Indianapolis, managers of the eight Professional Bowling Association teams scheduled to compete for the annual Elias Cup at Bayside Bowl drafted 16 pros to join their teams in Portland next weekend, capping a week of bowling.

That left 33 eligible bowlers undrafted, on the outside looking in at what has become a can’t-miss stop on the PBA Tour.

“It’s so sad,” said Tom Clark, the PBA commissioner. “There were literally tears. And it’s because of what’s been built at Bayside Bowl. Everybody wants to be a part of it.”

For the fourth straight year, the local folks who are part of Bowl Portland – the Bayside house leagues known as BoPo – are gearing up to welcome the pros as rock stars, but are just as ready to razz any mistakes in the team event.

Whereas onlookers in other alleys are traditionally silent during a bowler’s approach and delivery, BoPo fans raucously chant, cheer and carry on, often in costume.

It’s an atmosphere found nowhere else on Tour, with tailgating, fathead sign waving and mosh-pit energy all under the bright lights of ESPN, which will televise the event on Sundays over the next month.


“Performing on that stage has become a way to measure yourself as a top player,” Clark said. “The young kids want to be a part of it. To them, this is making it. (Being drafted) means you’re one of the best players. You have the respect of your peers. But most of all it’s going to be fun.”

The action begins Monday, first with a draw party to fill out the 64-bowler bracket for the PBA Xtra Frame Port Property Management Maine Shootout, then with a charity pro-am to benefit Full Plates Full Potential, whose mission is to end child hunger in Maine.

The singles tournament begins Tuesday morning and continues through the day, winnowing the field from 64 to 16 as bowlers go head-to-head in best-of-three matches. The Round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals and final are scheduled for Wednesday, with the winner earning $10,000 and those who win at least one match guaranteed $1,000.

Five local bowlers are in the field: Joseph Colcord, Rauno Kuusk and Zac Louten of Portland, Jimmy Clark of Topsham and the Bayside Bowl co-owner, Charlie Mitchell.

Mitchell is also owner of the Portland Lumberjacks, who exist only for the Elias Cup. The Lumberjacks reached the Elias Cup final last April, only to fall to Norm Duke and the Dallas Strikers, who won for the second straight year.

The other teams competing are the Silver Lake Atom Splitters (who won in 2015), Philadelphia Hitmen, New York City KingPins, Motown Muscle, Brooklyn Styles and L.A. X.

Each team protected three players from last year and drafted two more in February. The Lumberjacks feature holdovers Ryan Ciminelli, Wes Malott and Kyle Troup. Their draft picks were D.J. Archer and Yannaphon Larpapharat.

“He has a short nickname: JoJo,” Mitchell said of Larpapharat, who hails from Thailand. “It will be his first appearance here. We’ve actually got seven countries represented.”

Bowlers from Japan, Australia, Finland, Sweden, Canada and the United Kingdom will join those from the United States at Bayside Bowl, which expanded to 20 lanes a little over a year ago.

Tickets for the Shootout are $10 and available at the door Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday is reserved for a BoPo Pro-Am, not open to the public. Friday night will be a bracket-seeding event for the five-person teams under the Baker format, in which each bowler rolls two frames to complete a game.

The weekend festivities begin at noon Saturday. All 450 tickets have sold out.

The Shootout will be televised on the PBA’s online bowling channel, Xtra Frame. The Elias Cup will be live-streamed on ESPN3.

All of the televised bowling will be held in the new addition, which includes a viewing balcony. Mitchell said a 20-foot video board is being brought in and will be mounted over four lanes.

“So you’re going to have an amazing view of the action,” he said, “no matter where you are.”

Clark, the commissioner, said the PBA recently signed a television rights agreement with Fox Sports, “and we’ve already confirmed we’ll be back next year in Portland, Maine,” he said. “A lot of executives from Fox will be here. It’s a great place for us to show off the PBA. They’ll see that their investment in the PBA is a wise one.”

Jimmy Clark of Topsham will be one of the five local bowlers set to compete against touring pros in the singles tournament Tuesday and Wednesday at Bayside Bowl. Press Herald file photo.

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