Teri Culletto steps forward with authority on lane four. The petite lefty rolls a brightly colored bowling ball down the alley. Her purple bowling shirt is identical to her three teammates on the Pins and Needles squad except for her nickname, Mother Theresa, emblazoned above and below the team logo. That’s what everybody calls her at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, where she and most of her teammates work.

Rhonda Albert feels the weight of bowling fever. — Mark Lovewell

She hooks the 1-3 pocket square, and the pins explode in a clatter, every one of them eventually spinning on the hardwood lane, below a mural of West Tisbury’s iconic buildings.


Teammate Mary Alley steps up on lane 3. She is a refugee from the Island’s long-closed candlepin bowling alleys, and never participated in ten-pin bowling until the leagues began at The Barn Bowl & Bistro in Oak Bluffs.

“That’s why I have a high handicap,” Ms. Alley said with a laugh. “This is a blast.”

She rolls one down the middle, and notches the second strike in a row for her team.

Caroline Davey of team Minds in the Gutter. — Mark Lovewell

The Pins and Needles let loose a mighty cheer. The Penny Lanes over on lane five add their applause. High fives all around.

“They’re high-fiving each other and they’re not even on the same team,” said Bob Tankard, the league commissioner who wrangled 95 teams onto the league schedule.

That’s right, 95 teams.

There is a men’s league, a women’s league, a business league, a mixed league, a seniors’ league and a moonlight (Sunday night) league, and most of them are full.

Caitlin Kane, Phaedra Ben David, Kathy Brasefield and Kelli Stewart of team Shenanigans strike a pose. — Mark Lovewell

There are 35 more teams on the waiting list to get in.

“We’re going to have to make some changes so we can get more people in,” Mr. Tankard said. “It’s a novelty and it’s great, and they’re sucking it up.”

Manager Mike Sawyer is not surprised at the early success of the bowling leagues. “It’s Martha’s Vineyard,” he said. “There aren’t a whole lot of other bowling alleys.”

Over on lane 6, Marylee Schroeder leads a very fit team against an opponent that didn’t show up. The dedicated distance runner and some of her bowling teammates are a familiar early morning sight on Island roadways, training for their next road race. At first she couldn’t think of any parallels between bowling and running, but then a few similarities came to mind.

Melanie Englert knows that snuggling with a bowling ball leads to success. — Mark Lovewell

“They both have special shoes,” she said. “Since we didn’t have another team, it was kind of endurance. We just kept bowling. My fingers kind of hurt.”

Inevitably, some teams failed to get their act together following the sign-up, leaving a few holes in the schedule, but no-shows are rare. Many teams have the opposite problem.

The Pins and Needles originally signed up four alternates, in case one of the first-stringers couldn’t show up.

“I was so afraid people wouldn’t commit to 15 weeks,” said Ms. Culletto. “We haven’t used one. They can’t get in.”

Maria Mackenty, Veronica Conover, Diane Welch and Suzie Pacheco, team Slow Rollers. — Mark Lovewell

Mr. Tankard is working on some adjustments to the league schedule.

“I’m trying to help the alternates create their own teams,” he said. “We’ve got some things to iron out. They’re having fun, and that’s what you’re really looking for.”

Meredith Aldrich, co-owner of Mocha Mott’s Coffee Shop, is on lane eight, cheering on her team of bakers and baristas. They are up late. It is almost 8 p.m. on a Tuesday evening, and some of them will be back at work before dawn. Last week the team was in the late flight, and didn’t finish until after 10 p.m. Ms. Aldrich was asked if anything about running a coffee shop prepared her to lead a bowling team.

“When we have to bowl at 8 p.m., a lot of coffee comes in handy,” she said. “I definitely pounded a large one last week.”

New leagues begin in January. To get in line, contact leagues@thebarnmv.com.