JJ's Blog - 2012 Team USA Trials

Saturday December 31st

The alarm went off at 2:45 am.  It was an early one but it was easy to get up because I was heading to Los Angeles and then Las Vegas to bowl the Team USA Trials.  I’m an early-airport-guy so I like to be at the gate like 90-120 minutes before my flight.  Since my flight was at 7:30am, that would get me to the airport to about 5:00am.  I got up a little extra early just so I could go through my checklists to make sure I had everything.

I got to the airport at 5am and had a quick and painless check-in and run through security.  I sat in the Delta Sky Club for about an hour and a half and then went to the gate.  We boarded on time and everything was going as planned.  I was supposed to get to Los Angeles at 10am and was going to spend the day shopping and also going to this cupcake place in North Hollywood that makes the best cupcakes.  I wanted to share some of these with a few of my friends that were going to be bowling the tournament next week.

For those of you that don’t know me real well I have a real passion for two things:  Clothes and chocolates/cookies/pastries/any kind of sweets.

We sat at the gate until about 8am when the pilot got on and said that they were having trouble with the fuel pump and they were having the mechanics come out and look at the plane so at this time we didn’t know how long it was going to take.  Mind you, this plane just arrived from LA about 6:30am, so all they were doing was basically topping off the tank and cleaning it up and it was heading straight back to LA.

About 8:20am they were letting people de-plane but told them to check in to the gate every 10 minutes to make sure all was ok because when the plane was ready, we were leaving ASAP.  About 8:35am the pilot said we were ready to go and at 8:45am we were all boarded.  Well, 5 minutes went by, then 10 minutes, and then at 9am the pilot got back on the PA and said that the fuel pump was still not working and we were going to be re-routed because he had no idea how long this was going to take.

Next thing I knew that I was getting rerouted to Atlanta and my itinerary said I was going to get to LA about 6:40pm!

Since this was New Year’s Eve, most of the stores I wanted to shop at were going to be closed by 6 and when I called the cupcake place they were going to close around 5pm or maybe a little later depending on business and they were going to be closed on New Year’s Day, so it looked like my window for cupcakes was closing.  This had all of the makings of a really bad day.

I got to Atlanta and I got on standby for the 1:20pm flight that was going to get into LA at 3:20pm.  Fortunately, I got on!  Things were looking up all of a sudden!

I got to LA at 3pm (even better) but since I flew on standby my luggage didn’t make it.  That wasn’t a big deal since I was staying right across the street from LAX.  The lady in baggage service said my bags were on the way to Salt Lake City and then LA and they should be there tonight.  Well since I was there early, I got to the rental car place and off I went.  I left the airport at 3:30pm and I was only about 30 minutes from the cupcake store.  Since the guy I spoke to said that they were closing at 5pm, I should’ve had enough time to get a few cupcakes.

I got to the cupcake place at 4pm only to find a note on the door saying that they had already sold out of their inventory and they would be re-opening on Monday.

Happy New Year! Well isn’t that just flippin’ great!  Cupcakes…..denied!

Since I was a little peeved about that I headed to Beverly Hills to do a little clothes shopping.   It was about 25 minutes from North Hollywood to the “Hills”.  I stopped at this one store on Melrose Avenue and looked around but found nothing I liked despite the sale that was going on.  I then headed off to Rodeo Drive and got there right at 5pm.  With my good fortune continuing, I found out that all of the stores on Rodeo closed at 5pm on New Year’s Eve as well as Neiman Marcus on Wilshire Blvd., the one department store I REALLY wanted to see today.  Stay Hot!

Fortunately Saks Fifth Avenue and Barneys New York were still open as they weren’t closing until 7pm.  I spent about a little more than an hour shopping at both stores, but still found nothing I liked.  This was turning into a really bad day.  What made it worse is Rodeo Drive is also closed on New Year’s Day.  I found that out last year as the Team Trials were basically on the same week and I flew out New Year’s Day last year just to find out Rodeo Drive was shut down.  So far, no cupcakes for me or my friends and only about 15% of the shopping done that I wanted to get done.  This day has definitely been “no bueno” so far.

Being now about 6:30pm and being quite hungry I grabbed a quick bite at the Grill on the Alley and went to go check into the room.  I first had to go back to the rental car facility because when I looked closer at my rental agreement they screwed up the coupon I was using for a free day at the end of the rental.  It just keeps getting better.

After clearing up that mess, I got to the hotel about 7:15pm and my luggage still hadn’t arrived.  Stay red hot!

The one thing that I did have to look forward to was my good friend Missy Parkin invited me to a New Year’s Eve party hosted by her friend Scott Norton at his mother’s house.  After the day I’ve had so far, I really needed something to go right considering I was denied cupcakes, didn’t do hardly any shopping and didn’t have any luggage.  I didn’t want to sit in the room and think about how the day went, so I got showered and headed to their party which was about an hour from my hotel.  I got there about 8:45pm and stayed until about 12:30am.  I had a GREAT time as we talked, played some Password and ate some really good food.  I got back to the hotel about 1:30am and lo and behold my luggage arrived!  Woo-hoo!  Things finally were looking up today.  Well actually it was already Sunday, but it was a good way to sleep on a high note.

Sunday January 1st

I headed out about 8am to the Desert Hills Premium Outlets.  It was about a 2 hour drive from LAX since the outlets were over near Palm Springs.  I got there with no problems but I spent an hour there and still found nothing I liked.  The bad part was the one store that I REALLY wanted to go see…….closed…..permanently.  So far I was 0 for 3 on the shopping establishments, however I did get a nice ice cream cone at Haagen-Dazs which helped relieve some of my retail distress.

Since I found nothing there I made the 4 ½ hour trek to Vegas since practice session was on Monday.  I was going to stop at the Outlets at Primm, NV but when I got there I figured that would be a really BAD idea.

Being New Year’s Day and around 3pm at this time, a lot of the people from LA who drove to Vegas for New Year’s Eve were heading home…….I mean…….A LOT of people were heading home.  I could see at times on the southbound lanes on I-15 there were stretches where the traffic was backed up for miles.  As I got closer to the exit for Primm where the outlets were at, I could see all the cars backed up on the road underneath the overpass and how they were backed up at the couple of gas stations on the southeastern corner of the exit ramp.  I realized this would be a bad idea if I tried to get off so I kept going.

When I passed the overpass for the exit I noticed the southbound exit ramp (as well as the other three lanes) was backed up for about a mile and a half.  It was a good call on my part since it probably would’ve taken me an extra 15 minutes to get in and probably another 20 minutes to get out, however that made me 0 for 4 on shopping.  I hope the bowling goes better because the shopping has pretty much sucked so far.

I went straight to the City Center and looked around and then went to the Fashion Show Mall and then to the Forum Shops at Caesars’ Palace.  I did find a nice shirt at the Forum Shops and a nice tie at the Fashion Show Mall.  The shirt and tie were 60% and 70% off respectively so it was a big score to end the day.  After grabbing a bite to eat at one of my favorite restaurants in the Forum Shops (Spago), I headed to Texas Station to go check into the room and call it a night.

Monday January 2nd

I woke up about 7am and spent a little time riding the stationary bike at the hotel because my right hamstring was a little tight.  I felt it the night before at the end of the day and I thought if I slept on it, it would be a little better in the morning.  Well……I was wrong.  After about 30 minutes on the bike I felt a little better, so I went out to Panera Bread and got some breakfast.  I noticed there was a cupcake store in the same plaza that Panera was in.  They opened in like 15 minutes so I stuck around and grabbed a couple.  They were pretty good.  The day was starting off pretty well.

I came back to the room about 8:30am and then took a shower.  I then left about 9:30am with Jessica Baker to go pick up Diandra Asbaty and her son Madden at the airport who was getting in about 10:30am.  I made a quick stop to the Forum Shops on the way to pick up some unbelievable chocolate chip cookies at a restaurant called Max Brenner’s that I discovered the night before and then we went to go pick up Dee.

After picking her and Madden up I then made a quick trip to my good friend David Haynes’ pro shop to pick up a case of balls I had shipped there (Thanks Dave!) and then headed back to Texas Station to get ready for the one and a half hour practice session.

The practice session went well but the 90 minutes went really quick.  Texas Station is 60 lanes and since we were bowling on 4 patterns over the next 4 days, they had all the patterns spread throughout the center in blocks of 14-16 lanes. 

When you’ve got 13 bowling balls with you for all different patterns and you’re trying to practice on all of the patterns, it takes a little bit of time just switching bowling balls from one bag to another and then walking to one end of the house and then back to get bowling balls for another pattern and then walking back, etc.  You lose quite a few minutes of practice session just walking back and forth in a 60 lane center and switching equipment from one bag to another.

I felt pretty good on all of the patterns though.  Afterward we had orientation and then I went back to the Strip for some shopping and some food.  Tonight was back to City Center where I had a nice Mushroom Pizza at Wolfgang Puck’s Cucina at the Crystals Mall.  I found a couple of shirts I liked but they didn’t have my size, so that made me at about 2 for 7 now on shopping malls.  I’m only batting a little under .300, but not too bad.  At least that’s good on my wallet.  The tournament begins tomorrow so I headed back to the room about 9pm and was out by 10pm.

Tuesday January 3rd

Today the tournament begins.  We are going to be bowling on the 39’ Seoul pattern. This week we’re bowling on all WTBA patterns.

The pattern schedule will be as follows:
Tuesday:  39’ Seoul
Wednesday:  47’ Paris
Thursday:  34’ Stockholm
Friday:  45’ Mexico City

The Team USA Trials is also a little different this year in a couple of ways.  First, we’re only bowling 7 games a day instead of last year’s 9.  Also, this year’s champion will be determined by points and not total pinfall.  Basically if you lead the squad by total pins, you get one point.  If you’re second in total pinfall you get 2 points.  If you’re third you get three points and so on down the line. 

So, the person with the LEAST amount of points over 4 days is the Team USA Trials champion, the 2nd least amount of points is 2nd, and so on.  It’s supposed to reward the player who is the most consistent on all 4 days which is definitely a trait of a great bowler:   Versatility.  The player who is really good at one pattern but mediocre/sub-par on another will definitely stick out in this format.

The day really wasn’t a real good day.  My ball roll didn’t really match up too well and I was slow on reading a few transitions.  Texas Station has a little more early hook than the lanes at Sunset Station (which has hosted the Team USA Trials for the last 3 years).  Since my ball roll reads the fronts a lot naturally, this isn’t a real good combination for good ball motion when they break down, which started for me in game 3.  I felt like I threw the ball well overall, but being a little behind on transitions kind of hurt me.  I thought the scoring pace was going to be a little lower so I wasn’t quite as aggressive when I had to move inside the track and needed to start opening up the lane a little more.  I was trying to “trap” the ball just inside the track from games 3-5 instead of just moving deeper and really trying to open it up.  I only went +68 for 7 games which put me in 39th place for the day, especially not good considering I was +72 for the first 2 games.

I figured one point for every year that I’m old will not be acceptable for the rest of the tournament.  I was kind of depressed as I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make up that many points considering this is the first time they’ve used this points system.  I went back to the Forum Shops and drowned my sorrows on another Smoked Salmon Pizza at Spago and more cookies at Max Brenner’s.  I knew though……..tomorrow was going to be new day.

Wednesday January 4th

Today we were bowling on the 47’ Paris.  I started out the first game with a pretty good line to the pocket but I think my ball was still burning up a little quick and not getting into a roll down the lanes as I never missed the pocket for 218.  I think the Rapid Fire Pearl I was using was probably flaring a little too much combined with my ball roll reading the fronts too much.  I tried switching balls to an Anarchy and that wasn’t much better ball motion-wise though I did manage to shoot 230 somehow.  I then switched to a Mission X in game 3 and since that flared a little less but still had a strong cover it got through the fronts and rolled through the pins much better. Now I was able to do some striking.

From here I was just trying to chase it left and stay ahead of the moves.  The 6th game I was getting a little too deep as I was starting to get the big wet-dry from side to side as I was shooting a 200 game which wasn’t very good with par being around 225.  I tried to move back right on the fill ball and use loft so I could keep the ball on line as I knew that if I stayed where I was at I was only going to shoot another 200 game which wasn’t going to cut it at the scoring pace that was set.  It looked like it would work based on the fill ball, I just needed to move a little farther left with the same Mission X.  Lo and behold, it worked!  268 to finish the day!

That put me at 7th place for the day which moved me up from 39th to 16th in the standings.  Things were looking up for tomorrow for the short pattern, which has either been really good or really bad for me the last few years in this tournament.

Went back to the Crystals Mall at City Center and grabbed a pizza and some chocolates to take back for later.  I then went to use Kaitlin Mayall’s ball spinner to do some ball work (Thanks Kaitlin!) and then called it a night.

Thursday January 5th

I brought two urethane balls with me to combat the short.  I figured if anything it will give me more control and get me around the pocket until I see how the scoring pace is going to be and then go from there.  It sounded like a solid game plan going in.......however……..then we started bowling, haha!

I think the combination of the early roll of the urethane balls, the early hook built into the surface and my roll which reads the fronts too much as it is…..was a bad combination.  I shot 203 the first game which wasn’t terrible but not up to pace.  I had trouble keeping it on line when I went direct but the ball had trouble cornering when I gave it some room.

After 4 frames of the next game only hitting the pocket twice with one open, I realized that urethane wasn’t cutting it.  Since the loft worked out really well the last game yesterday, I thought I’d try that again.  It made sense since it would help eliminate some of the early roll my release naturally gets since the ball won’t hook in the air, haha!

I switched to pretty strong bowling balls and between the same Mission X and Rapid Fire Pearl I used yesterday, I shot +204 the last 5 to vault me to 6th place in the standings for the day which shot me to 4th place overall.

It was a good day so it was time to back to the Strip at the Forum Shops at Caesars.  I went with my good friend Katie Thornton to have a meal at the Cheesecake Factory and more of those good cookies at Max Brenner's and walked over to the Bellagio and bought some really good pastries at the Jean Philippe Patisserie.  I brought those back to the hotel and Katie and I shared the pastries with Kaitlin Mayall and her Dad while she let me use her ball spinner again (Thanks again Kaitlin!) to prepare surfaces for the Mexico City pattern the next day.

Friday January 6th

This pattern is on paper one of the most difficult in the WTBA series.  It has the potential to be pretty ugly so I felt like I kind of needed to play smart on the fresh and not try to “swing for the fences” so to speak.  I was fortunate shooting 256 the first game out of the box.  I threw a Red Mission playing between 10-13 really straight and had a good look.  I also had the good fortune of tripping a 2-pin, a Brooklyn and a “trip 3-9” for a 5-bagger, but I took every one of them because goodness knows I might need them later.  Sadly, I was really going to need them later.

I shot 196 the next game which I was still in good shape but as we made the turn to the low end I could see that there actually was some ball reaction developing between 20 and 25.  After 4 frames of really bad ball reaction (and seeing some strikes from a fair amount of other people) I knew it was time to move inside.  I went to the Mission X and it was the right ball but it took me a few frames to get lined up and combining that with another open frame I shot 176.  I got lined up and shot 223 the next game but the next few games were a struggle.  I was slipping on the approach which was resulting in a half a game of adjusting slide soles and heels and I was also seeing that my ball roll really wasn’t right.

I’m a fair amount up the back of the ball and I see that I needed more tilt and more rotation but with a softer hand.  All the guys that were bowling well had that.  I can get more rotation, but my tilt is still low so that makes my ball read earlier which forces me farther left which is part of the problem since I’m already about 5 boards too far left to begin with.  I can get more tilt, but not with a soft enough hand.  My ball roll forces me farther left (because it rolls sooner) so I get less hold when I miss in and when I get it to the right (since it burns up earlier) it doesn’t roll through the pins the right way thus it doesn’t strike as much.  I’ve been fighting this all week, but it was magnified today on this pattern.

It was a disappointing way to finish with (2) 170 games in the last 3 games and that put me 35th for the day and 6th place overall.  From here I needed to get picked for the Team since only the top 3 spots were automatically on the Team.

Fortunately, I got picked but I realized that I needed to work on developing this softer hand with more rotation and more tilt.  That’s going to be one of the first things I’ll be working on when I get home.  We had Team USA Orientation that night and then I went to get a bite to eat afterward even though it was near 10pm at that point.  Overall, it was a week with some ups and downs but in the end it all turned out good.  Looking forward to a good year on Team USA!

Saturday January 7th

I took Diandra, her son Madden, Jessica Baker and Jazreel Tan to the airport in the morning and then it was back to the hotel to check out and then back to Los Angeles for a couple of days of R & R.  I met with Missy Parkin for lunch at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa (nice call on the fish tacos at Wahoo’s!) and then went to Beverly Hills for some shopping on Rodeo.  I didn’t buy anything at either place, but it was just good to walk around and relax.  It was a reasonably low-stress day ending with a nice juicy “Double-Double” cheeseburger at In-N-Out.

Sunday January 8th

I met up with my cousin who lives in Santa Monica in the morning and we spent most of the day together with her and her boyfriend.  We did some shopping and lunch at the 3rd Street Promenade, watched the NFL playoff games at their house and then went to a few cupcake stores that were right nearby.  Los Angeles is big on cupcake stores….my kind of town.

Speaking about cupcakes, I wanted to go back to the cupcake store that I wanted to go to originally the weekend before that closed early.  I saw on their website that they were open until 8pm on Sunday.  I thought to myself……Perfect!  I’ll get there about 6pm and I’ll get some cupcakes to bring back.  I said goodbye to my cousin about 5:45pm and then got to the cupcake store in North Hollywood about 6:15pm.

I get there…….and they’re closed! There’s a sign on the door saying that they close at 6pm on Sunday, but their freaking website says they’re open until 8pm on Sunday.

Ironically, this trip ended the exact way it started.  Fortunately I bought a few cupcakes from one of the other stores in Santa Monica so I had some cupcakes to take home for my friends, but not the ones I REALLY wanted. It was then off to the airport to catch the 10:50pm red-eye flight and back to work on Monday morning.

At least the bowling part went well. :-)))