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Balls to the Wall

Throwing around double entendres with the Providence Downcity Bocce League

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OK, maybe you’re seeking the camaraderie of teammates and the thrill of victory, but the only sweat you’re willing to break right now comes from standing outside on a muggy August afternoon. For that, there’s the Providence Downcity Bocce League, which plays on Grant’s Block at the corner of Westminster and Union across from Tazza Caffe. The site has been home to informal bocce games for several years, but it wasn’t until 2010 that Brian Barbieri - casual player turned PDBL Founder and League Commissioner – volunteered to step up the organization.

Barbieri recalls, “I started playing when there was no website, no reported scores and no trophies. A Tazza manager was running things, but he left so I tookover and decided to make it more real – creating the website, forming the league and doing the branding.” Now there are 16 teams of at least four players, PDBL’s largest field ever, with a waiting list for new entrants.

Each team plays a ten-game regular season that starts in May, and the top teams advance to the playoffs and championship in September. Matches last one hour, and are played Monday through Wednesday at 5:30pm and 6:30pm. Barbieri acknowledges the demand and notes, “there’s definitely growth potential, but we’re limited on what we can do because of weather, darkness and sharing the Grant’s Block space with movies, music and events. We didn’t want to make it too serious by going into weekend games, because it’s meant to be a fun, casual, after-work get-together.”

Participants range from collegeaged to seniors, but skews toward younger professionals. While Barbieri says that “no one is too good,” he notes that games can still be very competitive since “some people just hate to lose.” Overall, however, it’s a “relaxed vibe and just a silly, fun thing to play” perhaps most evident in the team names – “Biocce,” “Chewbocce” and “The Rolling Stones” just to name a few. While it may be too late get a full-time roster spot this season, alternates are occasionally needed and spectators are always welcome. 

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