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The pin man keeps things rolling for bowlers

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The pin man keeps things rolling for bowlers

Whether it’s replacing standard parts or fabricating new ones, Manteca Bowl Maintenance Manager Mike King can handle just about anything when it comes to the machines that keep the bowlers bowling.


POSTED March 11, 2013 1:39 a.m.

If you’ve hit the lanes at Manteca Bowl and Family Fun Center recently there’s a good chance that you’ve benefitted from Mike King’s work.

You just don’t know it.

As the Maintenance Manager for the 48-lane facility, King and his staff of five patrol the nearly 100-yard long concrete area that houses the pin-setting and feeding machines that keep the wildly popular destination up and running.

They come out when the lanes need to be oiled or when they need to troubleshoot a problem with the scoring system. But for the most part the work is conducted out of the public’s eye – something that the Foresthill native and current Elk Grove resident has been doing for almost three decades.

The Bulletin caught up with King to find out what exactly goes in to keeping a bowling alley running and whether he still rolls:

What is it that you like about the sport?

“I like that you and your friends can meet up and enjoy a game – it’s something that anybody can do. The bowling alley is a place that you can go with your family and friends and have a great time. They say from 1 to 100 – it doesn’t matter your age.”

Does it get pretty competitive sometimes?

“Oh yes. Some of those scratch leagues are high dollar and they pay out a lot each week – the payouts can be quite substantial. That’s kind of the reason I don’t bowl as much as I used to – it got a little bit too serious. No talking and things like that. It takes some of the fun out of it.”

Favorite bowling movie?

“That would have to be Kingpin. Bill Murray with that rose bowling ball and the hair when he’s holding it over his head. It’s a classic.”

Describe a typical day for the maintenance crew.

“We start out oiling the lanes and then go through the previous day’s call sheet and make sure that everything is functioning correctly. Then we tackle any special projects or preventative maintenance that we have to do. Then it’s time to clean and lubricate and adjust anything that needs it, and then replace any worn or broken parts – there are 3,000 of them in each machine.”

Professional bowlers have different oil patterns that they’re subjected to at different tournaments and competitions. Do you guys have a set pattern that you use?

“We have our own made-up pattern. In this last winter league that we just finished we had 2,300 games bowled and there were five 800-series scores shot. I was told that was more than in the last 10 years that this bowling alley has been here. To get a pattern that everybody likes you work with a few bowlers that you can trust and try and come up with something that’s going to have to work for everybody. It took us about a week to dial it in for this last league season.”

You’ve been in this business for 26 years. How have the mechanics changed?

“Honestly they haven’t changed a whole lot. The electronics are more reliable but the design is basically the same as when I started. Scoring systems are a lot more reliable too – there isn’t nearly as much maintenance to keep them up and running.”

Are lane repairs something that you have to deal with?

“With the new synthetic lanes there is basically no maintenance at all. We don’t use wood anymore, so we’re not having to pull boards or redo finishes or anything like that. They used to get dinged up a lot. Some people really like the wood surfaces, but this has made things a lot easier.”

Do you have a favorite bowling alley?

“My favorite was Saratoga Lanes. It’s not there anymore. That’s where I started my junior league, and I had a lot of good memories there.”

Disneyland or Universal Studios?

“Disneyland. You go there as a young child and it sticks with you. It’s one of the first places that you really remember going and it’s something that you never forget.”

Football season or baseball season?

“Baseball season. The Giants. I remember when I was about 7-years-old and going to a game at Candlestick Park and waiting in the parking lot and having the players drive up in their cars and signing autographs. I don’t remember anything about the game, but I definitely remember that.”

What is something that people don’t realize about bowling alleys?

“They really don’t know who we are. If everything is running well they have no clue that we’re back here or that we even exist. It’s not until something that breaks down and we get a call that they realize that it’s a machine and somebody has to fix it.”

What do you love most about what you do?

“Having the satisfaction of making bowlers happy. I’m good with customers and I know what they’re looking for with their experience, and I want to give them that. We want to treat everybody with respect because they’re the ones that keep coming back and keep us in business.”

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