World Series a favorite of fans and players alike

Published Jul 15, 2017 at 4:10pm

A late afternoon downpour didn’t stop the thousands of people flooding the Toccolana Club from celebrating the opening night of the 44th annual World Series of Bocce on Friday.

A city-wide favorite event, people from all over gathered under the pavilions and lined up along the fences to watch their families and friends compete in the competition while they reunite over Italian eats from the Franklin Hotel and live music.

“It’s a sport where people come together in a semi-competitive atmosphere,” explained Toccolana Club trustee Pat Passalacqua. “They like getting together, the camaraderie, the verbal exchange. It’s a relaxing atmosphere. Friday night of the World Series, this is the place to be.”

A lot has changed since the first-ever World Series held at the Rome Bowling Center in 1974, let alone over the past five years.

With each new year, adaptations are constantly being made to improve the venue and the experiences of those who make the journey to downtown Rome for the third weekend in July by the members of the executive directors and locals.

“There’s really a lot of younger teams,” said Toccolana Club vice president Mike Ferlo about how the tournament has changed over the years. “I’d say a little over half of the field is younger teams. You still have your older guys, but it’s a youth movement.”

Among those younger participants was Pittsburgh Penguins left winger Tom Sestito. The Rome native was a member of Adirondack Insurance Services squad which lost, 16-14, to The Vigneto in the first round.

Not only are younger men coming out to play, but more women are playing bocce. Passalacqua noted that there are more women in leagues that bocce at the Toccolana Club than men do, saying the ratio is “easily two-to-one.”

Christina Emmanuele, daughter of local bocce standout Eddie Emmanuele and sister of up-and-coming bocce star Santino Emmaunele has been playing in the World Series for 11 years, noting that her first time ever was when she was 14 and part of the youngest team to ever enter the tournament.

“If anyone in the area has never been to the World Series, do not hesitate to come join the fun!” said Emmanuele. “I think everyone should get a taste of what the WSB has to offer!”

This year, she’s a part of Mike’s Detail Shop and defeated Laurey’s Pizzeria 16-1 and Rome Federal Credit Union 16-9.

“My favorite part is really just being around all of my friends and family,” said Emmanuele. “It’s not often everyone is together at the same time anymore. Friends that have moved out of the area always come back for this weekend.”

A record field of 39 teams makes up the Women’s Division. There are 105 teams in the Open Division and features a handful of out-of-town teams from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Ohio, Pennsylvania and even as far as Las Vegas.

Rome native and former San Diego Padres baseball player Archi Cianfrocco makes the trek from San Diego each year to represent Toccolana Club No. 1 at the tournament. His father, Angelo Cianfrocco, is the president of the Toccolana Club and Angelo, Archi and his son all play on a team together.

“I’m not a very good bocce player,” Cianfrocco admitted with a laugh, saying that he hasn’t played in 364 days. “It’s just great to come back and see family and friends that are still in the area.”

Toccolana Club No. 1 was defeated 16-8 by Nella Tua Testa in the first-round. Utica’s Finest Barbershop No. 1 downed Fournier Agency 16-5 to move on and face Adelios Contraction today.

Founding fathers Romeo Cecilla, John DeProspero, Joe Taverna, Cozy Costello and Tony Facciolo were the pioneers of what bocce is today in Rome. Each played a roll to develop the Series is today as the torch is passed along to the new generation.

“They created what it is today,” said Mike Ferlo. “A lot of their families are still involved today one way or another.”

Mike Ferlo, Guy Ferlo and Passalacqua all noted that what makes the World Series so special is seeing old friends and family over the course of the weekend. “A lot of families wait for the World Series,” said Guy Ferlo.

Guy Ferlo, the financial secretary for the Toccolana Club, noted that the World Series of Bocce is something that only Rome can have, meaning that the rights to the name cannot be given or sold. If the Toccolana Club were to ever give up hosting the Series, it would have to be disbanded.

Defending Open Division champs Legend’s Sports Bar defeated Tomassi’s Place 16-5 in the first round and will take on Pontelandolfo Club today.

In the Women’s Division, defending champions Vacca Financial beat SMS 16-14 to advance to the second round, where they’ll play Rizio and Calandra Plumbing and Excavating today.

Liquor Express defeated The Garage 16-7 and will take on Four Friends of Albany in the second round. The Franklin defeated Mich Ultra 16-3 in the first round and will face KDK Sports today.

The tournament will continue today and the championship games will be held Sunday afternoon. Over $30,000 will be awarded in prizes, with $7,000 going to the Open Division champions and $2,400 to the Women’s Division winners.