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Rick Auerbach just a diamond in the rough

Rick Auerbach has smoked an 818 series.
Rick Auerbach has smoked an 818 series.
Fred Eisenhammer

It would have been no surprise for anyone who knew Rick Auerbach.

Upon receiving several copies of International Bowling Industry magazine in which he was featured in one of the stories, Rick looked embarrassed. He was genuinely touched by the article that touted his bowling skills and pro baseball background and hurriedly put the magazine away so as not to attract attention.

No wonder that a parade of friends came up to him Wednesday night and wished him well during his first planned entry into a West Coast Senior Tour tournament, which will take place Saturday at Buena Lanes in Ventura.

One must understand that Rick has earned the respect of his peers – not by citing his 11-year major league career and touting his athletic achievements. He’s earned their admiration by being level-headed and relentlessly working on his bowling game with the same competitive zeal that made him an All-City baseball player at Taft High School in 1968.

Rick Auerbach is substance, not hype.

Rick still has a twinkle in his eye and an engaging smile as he talks about once again competing against the pros – but this time in a different sport. It’s now been well over 30 years since he hung up his spikes after he completed his pro baseball career that included three years with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Rick’s entry into the Ventura event is one that has his peers rooting hard for him. He’s now 64 years old – supposedly well past his athletic prime. But he continues to find ways to get better, even enlisting the help of bowling coach extraordinaire Robin Romeo, to find better rhythm and consistency.

To be sure, Rick is no slouch as a bowler. Already, he’s blasted four perfect games and he crushed an 800 series (818: 276, 276, 266) at AMF Woodlake Lanes in Woodland Hills two years ago.

“It’s weird,” said Auerbach after blistering his 818. “I should be getting worse, not better. I don’t know how to explain it.”

It’s an exhilarating feeling that Auerbach has enjoyed dring his rise to the status of elite amateur bowler. He actually wasn’t planning on testing his bowling skills against the pros – contending that the difficult conditions that they face were too prohibitive of a challenge for him to overcome.

But after he was pushed and cajoled and coaxed into taking part in the 60-and-over WCST tournament by friends, Rick relented. It was probably in a weak moment because Rick harbored no aspirations to battle tournament-hardened bowling professionals who are vastly experienced in competing through the pressure of these tournaments.

And that’s why his supporters are so mightily in his corner. They know he’s doing it just for the fun of it. Additionally, Rick admits he’s hoping to learn from the experience.

But no one should sell Rick short. He’s a gamer who enjoys challenges. After playing in front of 50,000 fans in major league parks, he’s pretty much immune to pressure.

Win or lose, it’s a certainty he’ll have a ball at the tournament. And he’s said as much.

He’ll be enjoying every second of the action and the camaraderie – just like he did when he was recently cheering on Bill Plummer during his back-to-back perfect games.

Rick Auerbach is someone who has never grown up.

It’s hoped that he never will.