You only have to look at some of the names of their teams to know that the members of Stonewall Bocce are having a good time — Love is a Boccefield, Joanie loves Bocce, Low Hanging Bocces and the Andre Boccellis are just a few teams on their roster.
The Stonewall Bocce League was formed in 2011 by Melvin Thomas and Lucy Cunningham. After playing in the D.C. Bocce League, they decided to form a league for the LGBT community and its allies.
The group runs a spring league from March to May and a fall league from September to November. They play on Thursday nights at 6:30 p.m. in Logan Circle and games usually last 30 to 45 minutes.
The rules of bocce ball are relatively easy to learn. A small ball called the jack is thrown onto the court and each team has four larger balls, which are then bowled onto the court in an attempt to be closest to the jack. The team with the closest ball is the only team that can score points in any frame.
The sport of bocce ball in its present form was developed in Italy, but throwing balls toward a target is the oldest game known to mankind. As early as 5000 B.C., the Egyptians played a form of bocce with polished rocks.
The Stonewall Bocce League has become so popular that there’s a cap of 200 players that make up the 20 teams in the league. Registration for the league is $40 to $45 and free agents are welcome to register for placement on a team.
“We operate under three principles that guide all of our decisions,” says Co-Commissioner Brien Bell. “Fun, philanthropy and community.”
At the beginning of each season, all 20 teams name a local charity of their choice and then play to win money that will be donated to the chosen charity. At least 80 percent of the profits raised during the season are given to the named charities of the teams that make it to the final rounds of the league championships.
Following league play on Thursday nights, the players often head to Nellie’s Sports Bar where they receive special prices. Another social event for the group is their mid-season karaoke contest which is another opportunity for fun and to raise additional money for charitable giving.
“I was looking at our group of players during the last season,” says Co-Commissioner Thomas. “We have an incredibly diverse mix of race, sexual orientation, gender and even players with disabilities.”
Thomas was recently honored with the “most valuable player” award at the 2013 Team D.C. Champions Awards.
The Egyptians would be proud.
Registration is open for the fall season from Monday through Wednesday (Aug. 19-21) at stonewallsports.org.