Locals have a ball playing bocce

Sons of Retirement use Flower Farm Inn courts
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Nestled beside a picturesque country pond on a working farm, a group of local seniors has re-discovered an ancient pastime. As they enthusiastically throw their pallinos and brightly colored bocce balls, vibes of camaraderie, and a little healthy competition, flow freely. The Sons of Retirement began hosting monthly bocce ball games at the Flower Farm Inn in Loomis a couple of months ago — the group hasn’t stopped growing since. They have even started playing two games per month. Paul Petruzzelli, of Auburn, head of the Sons of Retirement bocce ball, said while he can’t play golf anymore, the international game has been a fun alternative. “It’s very good for people who are older, who aren’t as mobile as they used to be,” Petruzzelli said. “The atmosphere is very congenial.” The Flower Farm’s bocce ball court, also the only one in the Auburn-area, lies beneath a grape-vine covered arbor, behind the coffee shop. The Sons of Retirement are hoping to work with the Auburn Recreation District to have public courts installed in Auburn. Until then, they are encouraged to bring their own beer or wine, enjoy refreshments from the coffee shop and play bocce in a down-home setting. Petruzzelli said he remembers watching older Italian men play the game at courts in San Francisco. Sons of Retirement President Ken Hansen used to watch as well. “They are wearing their suit with a tie and they are all crippled up,” Hansen said. “I saw one guy throw his ball and knock the pallino away from his opponent’s ball. It was a 40-foot shot.” Word of the fun to be had quickly spread to the members’ wives. They have started playing and a separate women’s bocce ball group is even in the works. “Hearing how the men had so much fun, most of the wives in that group have said they want to play,” said Paul Petruzzelli’s wife Alice. “I think it’s very good for social and the mental health to get out and be active.” David DeRosa, of Loomis, said one of the benefits of playing bocce ball is that it fits nicely into his schedule. “It’s not really time-consuming. You can play in the morning and still have the afternoon, or you could make it an all day event.” The objective of bocce ball, which includes elements of bowling, is to get your bigger, weighted balls closer to the smaller, target ball, or pallino, than your opponent’s. While there are special bocce ball courts, the game can also be played more casually in a large, grassy area. More inexpensive bocce ball sets are available at discount retail stores, while more elite sets can be found at department stores or online. Hansen said whether the Sons of Retirement group is playing for a quarter or bragging rights, overall the bocce ball games are a fairly low-key chance to socialize. “Just come to have fun,” Hansen said. “Don’t take it too seriously.” Reach Sara Seyydin at