Monday, March 7, 2011

Making the Switch: Mitch Seary's Story

Last summer I experienced something that I like to call “bowling deja-vu”. It’s the feeling that you’ve played a certain game of bowling before but, in fact, you never have. Having played half a season on the Duckpin tour in the States last year, everything felt like 5pin bowling while in fact is was nowhere close. The reason I mention this is that this must’ve been the feeling to a degree what our next feature bowler must’ve felt. While he certainly took things a few steps further, (and you’ll read exactly how far in this article) I can somewhat relate.

Mitch Seary of Nova Scotia had been a Candlepin bowler since the age of 4. Seary followed a path that many 5pinners also take, with being enrolled in the youth organization, graduating to the adult ranks to take his game further. The pressures of the adult ranks were no different in Candlepin as Seary would question himself at the beginning of his adult career playing on a team with his bowling idols. “I was bowling with the guys that I grew up hearing about; Jerry deGraff, Chris Poberenzy and the likes of those guys. As a young teenager I was very nervous with bowling with the likes of them. What if I mess up? What if I have a bad string? Are they going to get rid of me?” describes Seary on his first thoughts. But jumping into something like this can lead to great things and for Seary, this was no different. Seary had soon found himself a home.

After a few years playing the adult ranks, Seary felt he needed a new challenge, where with some luck in 2009, he found in 5pin bowling. He had frequently heard people talking about the game of 5pin, but had never actually ventured to try the game. A friend who Seary had bowled with in Candlepin, spoke of a 5pin tournament coming up that he would be able to participate in. Seary travelled to Greenwood, NS, to play in the 3 day tournament we know as The Open.

A major difference between Candlepin and 5pin is the actual ball itself. Switching from a Candlepin ball which typically weighs between 2lbs 4oz - 2lbs 7oz to our standards in 5pin, which would cause havoc to your timing. Imagine playing your province’s best bowlers, having never played the game before and throwing a ball that weighed more than a pound more than you were used to throwing. While the odds were stacked against Seary, adjustments were made, some fine tuning here and there, and by the end of the tournament, Mitch Seary was a provincial champion. In 3 days of playing 5pin, Seary had accomplished something scores of bowlers across the country have only dreamed of doing. Seary was heading to Saskatchewan to compete in the Open Nationals.

The thing with first impressions is, that there are 2 first impressions playing out at once. I can tell you first hand the kind of buzz Mitch Seary created once arriving to Saskatoon. The tournament had yet to start and his story was the most talked about already. But there was also the first impression forming in Seary’s head about 5pin bowling at the national level. “At nationals we bowled the team event first on the first day and I remember just walking into the bowling alley and again being amazed. There were stands in a bowling alley for fans, there were people from each province with all their shirts and stuff.“ explains Seary. Walking into a situation like that, having only bowled 20 games of 5pin in his life on top of it all, could have been very intimidating to Seary. Not one to be overwhelmed, Mitch Seary took to his game, amazing both spectators and competitors alike with his talent.

His talent took him to the podium in Men’s singles in Saskatoon in 2009, a feat that the province of Nova Scotia had not seen for a little while, was named to the Men‘s All Star team, and won the Rookie Of The Year award. Losing to John Walsh of PEI to win the bronze (they even needed a second game, after tying the first game, to decide who would play Martin Talbot of Ontario in the finals), ended Seary’s storybook tournament, but the impact on his feat are still strong. I know every year that I may be lucky enough to compete again at The Open Nationals, I’ll think back to that year, remembering what Seary had accomplished.

“The nationals itself was the best tournament I have ever had the chance to be part of; the events, the organization, the meals, the dances, the competition, the prestige. I have never been to a tournament where people had to qualify to be there, all my tournament have been ones where you just put a team together and go. So I felt very privileged to have a chance to represent Nova Scotia at this event because there are people that have bowled 5 pin all their life and never had a chance to reach the national event. “ reflected Seary when asked this winter about his experience in Saskatoon. “I experienced another 1st while bowling the head to head match, I was the only person bowling in the whole bowling alley and everyone was watching me bowl. I have never been the only person on the lane bowling and having everyone behind me watching. And the cheering, the people of 5 pin really get into the match even if they aren’t bowling in the match. I couldn’t believe how loud it was when I threw a strike or the big awe when I punched a headpin. It was so awesome having so many people behind me cheering for me, I have never been so happy to be bowling before in my life. I remember one of my friends (Cathy McPhee) yelling so loud that she lost her voice within the 1st couple boxes haha.“

Mitch Seary certainly impacted how I look at bowling. I used to look at every bowler I was competing against and just assume that their path to that moment was similar to mine. Now, I think that there are many interesting stories out there that are just waiting to be told. Mitch Seary has set a pathway for bowlers of some of the other types of bowling to follow in the future. Interacting with Duckpin bowlers from the States leaves me to believe that it’s only a matter of time before they slowly filter into 5pin as well, creating success and great stories similar to this one. The next time you’re bowling in a tournament, don’t be afraid to turn to the person next to you and carry a conversation on their experiences. You might find that they have quite the story to tell….

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