ANDY WILCOX Napa Valley Register
First Kiss, last year’s runner-up, puckered up and took first place in Saturday’s second annual Puertas Abiertas Bocce Tournament at the Bocce Pavilion.
The event, officiated by the Napa Bocce Association and held on its four covered courts next to Napa Senior Center, benefits Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center.
Puertas Abiertas, Spanish for “open doors,” began as a program of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in 2005 with a mission to help struggling Latino families and individuals get back on their feet by directing them to those who can provide things such as job skills and counseling.
First Kiss was made up of Ardy and Lori Van Winden and Bruce and Roseanne Kirby. The Van Windens are the parents of former Justin-Siena High baseball standout Mike Van Winden, a two-time Napa County Player of the Year who played for UC Berkeley from 2003 to 2007.
This year’s runner-up, VineRunners, featured Patrick Brennan, Luis Salinas, Brian Eggert and Alan McGauran. Brennan is married to Puertas Abiertas executive director Rejane Brito. McGauran, a distance runner, has finished three marathons, five half-marathons and several 10K and 5K races over the last four years.
Medals and gifts went to the finalists as well as third-place team Bell Products, which included Rolando Roldan, Casey Clark, Geoff Dubois and Mike Blackman. The top three teams also earned next year’s top seeds, meaning they can sign up a week before anyone else.
Placing fourth were the Boule-vardiers, made up of Tom and Susan Kennelly, Ron Julis and Brigid Mulligan.
The tournament began including a consolation bracket this year, for teams that lose in the first round and want to keep playing. The consolation champion was St. John’s Catholic School.
The other 11 teams were Bocce
MeMucho, COPE Family Center, Croatian Crew Cuts, Hispanic Network, Justin-Siena, Kohl’s, Mechanics Bank, Men’s Club, Napa Redevelopment Partners, Queen of the Valley, and Veni Vidi Bocce. The Justin-Siena team included the school’s athletic director, Michael Fisher.
Brito said players ranged in age from 18, the minimum age allowed to play, to their 80s or possibly beyond.
Most teams were named after businesses or organizations that sponsored them for $200. Those donations, entry fees of $25 or $30 for spectators to enjoy barbecue lunch with beer and wine, silent auction and win prizes, proceeds from the silent auction, and general donations from the community all helped raise close to $14,000 in last year’s tournament, Brito said.
“Our focus is on low-income Latino families, but our doors are open to anyone,” Brito said. “People can come to our center with any sort of problems — they need food cards or rent assistance, or they’re going through some problems at home with divorce or social or mental health problems — and we connect them to the partner agencies we work with to make sure they get the services they need.
“We focus our on-site programs on self-sufficiency and education — classes in basic computer skills for people who have never learned to use a computer before, support groups for women, English-as-a-second-language classes, adult education classes in the evening, and middle school connections for parents to help their child succeed in school and not get involved in gangs and drugs and alcohol. At the end of the program, those families each receive a desktop computer donated to and refurbished by CyberMill (Technology Center).”
The bocce tournament became the center’s main fundraiser largely because Angela Peatman, a past president and secretary of Puertas Abiertas, had connections with the local bocce community.
“The idea came up because bocce is becoming so popular in Napa,” Peatman said. “One of our volunteers said a bocce tournament for a fundraiser would be great for Puertas Abiertas.
“It’s a pretty natural choice, too, because Italians came over here as immigrants, too, and many settled in the Napa Valley and brought this game with them. Now we can use it as a way to outreach to the recent immigrants that Puertas Abiertas serves. It’s a coming together of different segments of the community that shows good faith.”
Brito said the tournament sold out two months ago, making some ask if it might become a two-day event in the future. She said it would might be discussed by the Puertas Abiertas board of directors.
Unlike her husband, Brito did not play.
“I wished I had,” she said. “Some of the matches were very exciting.”
In the end, the tournament had not only helped open doors. It also opened eyes to the game of bocce.
“We had a couple of teams with players who had never played before. Even our second-place team had only one who had played before,” she said, added that her husband was one of those rookies. “But the rules were on the back of the program, so people were able to learn how to play it the right way.”