The Joy of Bocce Weekly
 In This Issue: Vol. II, Issue 21 - May 25, 2003 
•   Notes from the publisher
•   The market
•   The background
•   Template type courts
•   The concept
•   The 'high end' product
 Notes from the publisher
The FREE weekly Ezine for bocce aficionados everywhere
Volume 2, Issue #21 May 25, 2003
Publisher: Mario Pagnoni Copyright 2003

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This week’s offering is a Special Edition focusing on Chris Pfeiffer’s Backyard Bocce Courts. The idea is so clever and innovative, that, after careful evaluation on my part, I’ve decided to devote the entire issue to the product. Chris just may revolutionize backyard bocce with his nifty, portable courts.


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 The background

When Wisconsin Special Olympics coach and volunteer Chris Pfeiffer called me about his new company, Backyard Bocce, Inc., I was skeptical. I get calls and emails every day from people with bocce products they want me to “rep”. They know that I have a direct pipeline to bocce lovers everywhere via my Joy of Bocce Weekly.

I give the same answer every time. It goes something like this…

“Publishing a newsletter is all about trust. Readers have to trust that you are bringing them good products at reasonable prices. You lose trust, you lose subscribers. Send me samples and let me evaluate them with my Monday morning bocce crew, and, if I like what I see, I’ll be happy to help get the word out.”

Others that I respect and trust have already gotten behind Pfeiffer’s product. But I’ll never be first with a new offering. I’m very cautious, always looking at the big picture. I love the idea that I can make money while promoting a sport that I enjoy so much. But I want to be sure that what I do is in the best interest of the game.

Having said that, here’s a quick story that may seem unrelated…but will make sense in a couple paragraphs.

When I coached high school and American Legion baseball, one of our players was Steve Bedrosian. A pretty good player in high school at 5’10” and 170 lb, Steve was a late bloomer who was 6’ 2” 200 lb by his second year in junior college. When Frank “Porky” Vieria, the legendary University of New Haven coach saw him pitch in a junior college All-Star game, he immediately signed him to a letter of intent to enroll at New Haven. He joked that Bedrosian, who later turned pro and won a Cy Young Award with the Phillies in 1987, “…set an NCAA speed record for going from a non applicant to a full scholarship recipient.”

Similarly, after examining Backyard Bocce courts, I think I’ve set the mark for shortest time going from a semi-interested observer to a manufacturer’s rep. The products are that good!

View Backyard Bocce photos

 The concept
Backyard Bocce, Inc. has brought to market a line of portable bocce courts that are both practical and reasonably priced. Pfeiffer’s concept grew out of his experience with Special Olympics, and a portion of the proceeds from sales benefit SO.

For large groups competing in an open field, Pfeiffer designed an ingenious series of bocce court templates that are easy to set up and take down.

Previously, he and other groups experimented with other impractical methods like cumbersome wood or PVC frames, or crudely fashioned courts made of rope, string, or painted marking lines.

There are three different courts to choose from (all are 12’ by 60’). Two of these courts are portable, lightweight, and extremely easy to assemble and disassemble.

Set-up is not unlike pitching a tent. You stretch out the template, pull it tight with bungee cords, then drive a couple of stakes into the ground. Next, plant some flags indicating end lines and half court (visual landmarks), and you are set to go within five minutes (took my bocce partner, Peter, and I seven minutes on our first try – take-down was just three minutes). Foul lines are demarcated by green and red vinyl sewn into the material ten feet from each end.

The only pre-requisite for these courts is a reasonably level stretch of grass or dirt that measures about 12’ by 60’.

Although many of us like longer courts, most SO bocce is on 12’ by 60’ of real estate, and the decision to opt for these dimensions is probably a good one for backyard play. I also like the fact that there is just one foul line at each end (10’ from the end) rather than one line for hitting and another for pointing. Also, midcourt (30’) is clearly marked to indicate minimum distance the pallino must travel to begin each frame.

Get more info on Backyard Bocce

 The market
Backyard Bocce, Inc. has listened carefully to feedback from bocce enthusiasts and has already gone through several prototypes based on comments from customers. There is an economical model that retails for $39.99 (who would have thought that you could have your own bocce court for forty bucks?). Originally a black rope template construction, this model has evolved into a one-inch white vinyl system that resembles a painted boundary line.

A separate “mid range” court retails for $59.99. Originally constructed of black nylon webbing, this has been replaced by a two-inch white vinyl template.

These two products are more boundaries than they are courts. They simply demarcate a 12’ by 60’ rectangle for play. Any ball that rolls or is knocked out of the rectangle is out of play – a “dead ball.”

The courts solve one nagging problem for lawn bocce players. They limit how far left or right a player may move to roll a ball. Sometimes a well played point is right in front of the object ball. To avoid knocking it closer, the opponent gains a better angle by moving a couple steps to the left, then another, then another. Eventually he gets to a point where he is gaining an advantage – and, as any good sports official will tell you – the main goal of a referee is to ensure that both teams have an equal chance to win.

With these courts you have to stay in bounds (within the template) to roll each ball.

The courts are ideal for casual, recreation players who want to “step up” a notch without spending big bucks for their own traditional court. I know that a lot of top players will thumb their noses at this product, but they are not the market for which it was developed. It reminds me of Mike Paccione’s Resolver – a tape measure that sits atop a clear acrylic cube that fits over the pallino. The tape swivels 360 degrees (see Top players think it is a “toy” – only the most accurate inside measuring device will suffice. But backyard players find it clever, easy, and accurate enough for their level of play.

Many who host Fourth of July cookouts and other family events include bocce as part of the festivities. They can purchase a couple of these courts and offer an organized backyard bocce tournament complete with bracket boards. Now, anyone can be a tournament director!

Companies who host large outings can offer a terrific and cost effective recreational program. Anyone who runs a bocce event can consider running it outdoors to avoid the rental cost of indoor facilities. Heck, now you can run a tournament in a public park just by getting a permit from the recreation director!

Schools, youth groups, clubs, restaurants, senior centers -anyone who has access to a level piece of real estate...the ball can be in your own court.

Ordering info for Backyard Bocce courts

 Template type courts
The two “low end” template type courts are inexpensive and extremely functional.

One is a white vinyl template featuring a one-inch boundary line (retails for $39.99) and the other features a two-inch vinyl line ($59.99).

The courts are identical in all other respects. Both are heavy duty vinyl, 60’ by 12’, pre-measured and pre-connected, with bungee cords, flags, and hand winder for easy set-up, take-down, and storage. Green and red foul line markers are sewn into the vinyl ten feet from each end. Sets up in minutes – no tools required.

The wider, two-inch vinyl boundary line makes for a better visual. Other than that, one court is as good as the other. For the $20 difference in the price of owning your own court, I recommend the two-inch vinyl. If you need multiple courts to run an event, I might opt for the one-inch. Shipping is $10 per court for both the one-inch and two-inch version.

 The 'high end' product
I never thought I’d be writing about a “high end” product that would sell for under $300. This court is a step up from the white vinyl templates and even features vinyl mesh sideboards. This is a good option for the person who always wanted a court, but couldn’t fit it in the budget, or didn’t want to sacrifice the back yard to a permanent structure.

At $299.99, now anyone can own a bocce court. A bonus is that you can take this one down after the day’s games, place it in its carry bag, and store it in the garage until you play again.

Set-up is a little more involved, but not daunting. The written directions are clear and well illustrated, and you need only a cordless drill and a mallet.

The idea is to drill into the ground so that you can drive in some plastic ground anchors every ten feet in a straight line.

Then you insert metal support posts (which you attach to the mesh sideboards) into the ground anchors, taking care to keep that straight line. The process takes 30-45 minutes the first time, but once the ground anchors are in, the set-up time can be cut in half.

{Note: the ground anchors can be eliminated if you think you might want to set the court up in different locations on different occasions. Just drive the support posts directly into the holes that you drill in the ground. Use the ground anchors only if you want a permanent home for your court.}

We found that playing bank shots off the sideboards was very do-able, with varying results depending on how close to the posts your ball struck the sideboard.

With all these wonderful products, I recommend dropping the wheels on your lawnmower, and cutting the grass before play (at least over the section where you’ll place the court).

Also, sometimes “standard” size pallinos get obscured by the grass. You may want to use a larger target. A croquet or field hockey ball works nicely. In a pinch, use a baseball or any ball about the size of a baseball.

Chris Pfeiffer’s Backyard Bocce, Inc. has done a great service for the bocce playing community. His excellent product line is a boon to Special Olympians, parks and recreations programs, week-end bocce warriors, senior centers, schools and just about anyone else who’s ever tried to roll, toss, heave or otherwise direct a bocce ball toward a pallino. Pfeiffer may just revolutionize backyard bocce.

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