Former major league pitching star John Burkett’s career as an athlete enters a new chapter when the two-time all-star begins his professional bowling career in earnest in the PBA50 Pasco County Florida Open.
Burkett, an accomplished bowler for most of his life, is not a stranger to bowling in PBA competition, having bowled in a handful of Tour events since making his debut in 1990 in Pinole, Calif. He also competed in several regionals along the way, and most recently, he competed in PBA’s 2014 Oklahoma’s Grand Resort Summer Swing and the GEICO PBA World Series of Bowling VI as part of the process to get ready for PBA50 competition.
On April 12 he will join a field of approximately 120 players 50 years of age and older in the Pasco County Florida Open at Lane Glo Bowl in New Port Richey, Fla., which kicks off the 2015 PBA50 Tour season. The entire event will be streamed live exclusively on Xtra Frame, the PBA’s on-line bowling channel.
“I’ve been practicing and working out,” Burkett said. “More recently I’ve been working on getting my rev rate back up by changing my grip. I have a tendency to squeeze it and the ball knuckles off my hand, but I’m starting to turn that problem around.”
The 50-year-old Burkett pitched for the San Francisco Giants, Florida Marlins, Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox during a 16-year career that began in 1987 and ended with his retirement in 2003 at age 38. He posted a 166-136 record with 1,766 career strikeouts. He was an all-star with the Giants in 1993 (when he contended for the National League Cy Young Award with a 22-7 record) and in 2001 with the Braves.
Now that he plans to make the commitment to bowl a majority of the PBA50 Tour events this season, Burkett likes his chances of putting together a successful season, although he is hesitant to make any specific goals.
“I have high expectations and I believe in myself, but I’m not kidding myself that it won’t be a work in progress,” said Burkett, who plans to bowl seven or eight stops this year. “For most of the guys, making the right adjustments and ball moves is second nature, where for me it’s going to be more of a continual learning experience.
“Being an athlete and bowling more competitive games on a regular basis should produce some good results,” he added. “What I’m going to have to guard against is getting too anxious and going into panic mode when I get lost. If there’s an area that I really need to concentrate on, that would probably be it.”
Burkett’s introduction to the sport came as a youngster when his first job was setting pins at Wedgewood Lanes, a duckpin center which converted to tenpins, in his hometown of Beaver, Pa. A career as a professional bowler might have been in his future had he not also found he had exceptional skills throwing a baseball at a young age. Now, after a successful professional baseball career, he can return his sights to his other passion of bowling.
“I’m so excited and blessed to be able to do it,” he said. “I want to bowl and get to know the guys that I’ve admired for so many years. I’m just looking forward to the whole experience.”
Also scheduled to compete in the Pasco County Florida Open will be many of bowling’s legends including Floridians Walter Ray Williams Jr. of Oxford and Norm Duke of Clermont. Other Hall of Famers entered include defending champion Amleto Monacelli, Pete Weber, Parker Bohn III, Brian Voss, Tom Baker and Dale Eagle.
Fans can follow PBA action through the entire PBA Network which includes wall-to-wall coverage of an expanded schedule of live events on Xtra Frame, player interactions through Facebook and Twitter, mobile gaming, original programming, archived events and immediate news updates 24/7 on varying communications devices anywhere in the world. For additional PBA Network information visit http://www.pba.com/PBANetwork
For admission and pro-am entry information contact Lane Glo Bowl at (727) 376-1164.
PBA50 PASCO COUNTY FLORIDA OPEN SCHEDULE
Lane Glo Bowl, New Port Richey, Fla. (All times Eastern)
Saturday, April 11
A & B Squad practice session: 9 a.m. – Noon
Pro-Am Squads 1, 3, 5 p.m.
Sunday, April 12
10 a.m. - A squad qualifying
4 p.m. - B squad qualifying
Monday, April 13
10 a.m. – B squad qualifying
4 p.m. – A squad qualifying
All cashers advance (including super senior cashers)
Tuesday, April 14
9 a.m. - Players in cash positions below 24th place (including super senior cashers) bowl five qualifying games. Top eight advance to match play.
Modified Match Play Round One
12:30 p.m. - Top eight from the cashers round and qualifiers 9-24 bowl five match play games. Top eight advance.
Modified Match Play Round Two
4 p.m. - Top eight from match play round one and qualifiers 1-8 bowl six match play games. Top five advance to stepladder finals which start immediately after match play round 2.