It was the shot that defied explanation. A Los Angeles league bowler last week knocked down all 10 pins on his first shot – or at least it seemed he did.
By the time the pin-setter came down, there was one pin that had found its way back on the lane, sitting unflinchingly on the area where the No. 8 pin would typically stand.
The mysterious returning pin triggered an appeal to the league president, who ruled that a pin was still standing and the frame should not go down as a strike.
Informed of the incident, Keith Kitti was hardly surprised at the sometimes-bizarre behavior of bowling pins. That may be due to the fact that Kitti has seen plenty of bowling oddities as a longtime bowling facility manager – not to mention as a crackerjack bowler who’s blasted 15 perfect games and two 800 series.
“You get that,” said Kitti of the crazy pin bounces. “Because of simple physics, there are probably millions of combinations of the way the pins can fall. And when you factor in people’s bowling styles and the way they release the ball, it can make for some interesting reactions.
“And when you have people with an open-play mentality who just throw the ball as hard as they can, it can go in the gutter and then fly out at the last minute.”
Kitti, 39, has been the facility manager of the 31-lane 300 Pasadena bowling center for the past four years. The AMF bowling house reinvented itself as an upscale entertainment bowling center in March 2009 after closing for a year for remodeling. There is no league bowling at the thriving facility; it’s more of a cosmic-style atmosphere with loud music.
Kitti served as the facility manager at now-defunct Rocket Bowl in Chatsworth for 12 years before switching to 300 Pasadena.
In an interview, he touched on several bowling topics.
AMF has been embracing the upscale “300” model and now has nine across the country, three in California – San Jose, Anaheim and Pasadena, which is the last one to open.
“We’re very busy all the time and extremely busy on the weekends and sometimes during the week when we have corporate parties,” said Kitti of 300 Pasadena.
He added that the bowling center gears itself to the less-experienced bowler.
“When we do get the experienced bowler in the center, it’s not what they expect and they can leave a little unhappy because they can’t read the lanes very well and say the music is too loud. But it’s not the market that we’re targeting,” Kitti said.
“We’re targeting more of the recreation bowlers who might be taking their significant other on a date. It’s more of a nightclub-type of atmosphere.”
Kitti agreed with the notion that bowling centers try to inflate bowlers’ scores with the use of heavy oil on the lanes – which can provide a groove to the pocket. That’s not a comment that Kitti gets at 300 Pasadena. Instead, he hears from bowlers saying that the lanes are too dry.
“We don’t put a lot of oil out there,” Kitti said. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of our bowling is open play. Bowlers use the house ball and don’t even have their own shoes.
“We just put enough oil to protect the lane surface.”
Kitti said he had no “crystal ball” to predict whether the bowling industry might turn to more upscale centers in an effort to bring back the interest in the sport that has waned the past two decades.
But he has seen bowling “going away from the traditional, committed-league mentality to a more recreation open-play” format.
One week ago, South Point Hotel and Casino announced that it would be building a new $30-million bowling center in Las Vegas. The 60-lane facility will be used by the United States Bowling Congress to host several annual events.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles area has been losing bowling centers over the years.
“Real estate is more valuable than the bowling business,” Kitti said. “Bowling is not as strong [in L.A.] as, say, Milwaukee. When I bowled in nationals, the presence of the Midwest was more dominant than L.A.’s.”
Kitti said he still believed L.A. can regain its bowling momentum.
Kitti added that he was now a retired bowler, having given up league bowling in 2008.
Now with five kids that include twin 2-year-olds and a 10-month-old, Kitti doesn’t have much time to focus on the game.
But Kitti said that could change.
“Maybe when my munchkins get older, I’ll have time for that,” he said with a laugh.