August 28, 2017

Cornhole tailgating game a hit with fans

REPOSTED from The Times Tribune

MOOSIC — Joe Carlin got his introduction to cornhole when he won RailRiders tickets in a competition with the team’s interns about a year-and-a-half ago, and he was hooked.

The 28-year-old Scranton resident then bought a small set to play the game — during which players take turns throwing 16-ounce beanbags at a raised platform with a hole 30 feet away — while tailgating at baseball games and concerts. He soon discovered the area has a growing scene centered on the activity.

With teammate Kenny Heater of Scranton, Carlin took second place in the competitive bracket of the second annual NEPA Cornhole Tournament on Saturday at PNC Field, placing behind Scott Laba and Shane Coyne from the Syracuse area, the defending champions.

“It’s fun; it’s a backyard sport,” Carlin said. “With NEPA Cornhole, they built a little community for it. It’s cool to meet other people that play, to be competitive with each other. It’s like a family. Everyone wants everyone else to improve and test each other’s skills, so when it comes time for a tournament, we’re ready.”

Carlin first took the leap from casual to competitive when Heater told him about a NEPA Cornhole tournament, and the pair’s standings have gradually improved through their first few competitions.

At PNC Field, the tournament included two brackets, with 24 teams playing in the competitive division and 16 in the social division, said T.J. Griffiths, co-founder and co-owner of NEPA Cornhole with Tony Lucarelli.

The 40-year-old Old Forge resident recalled having fun playing it at family events and tailgating at New York Giants and Penn State games, but having to travel out of the area to play in tournaments as he got more into the game.

“We said, ‘Let’s try to grow the sport locally,’?” Griffiths said. “The support has been great. We’re doing well with tournaments.”

A social scene has coalesced around the game at some local bars, including the Backyard Ale House in Scranton, and the new organization has a weekly league at Oak Street Express in Taylor.

NEPA Cornhole held a tournament that raised money for Allied Services and Ryan’s Run, which Griffiths said drew more than 70 teams, and has events at Susquehanna Brewing Co. in Pittston, including a tournament scheduled from 1-5 p.m. Sept. 24.

Another tournament is scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 16 at the Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel in Scranton, raising money for the Children’s Advocacy Center of NEPA.

Griffiths, who became a regional director of the American Cornhole League about two weeks ago, described cornhole as a growing sport whose national championships got favorable ratings on ESPN2.

He sees improvement in the local skill level, but also room for more growth.

“The competitiveness in this state is nowhere near the South yet,” he said.

Contact the writer:

kwind@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100, x5181; @kwindTT on Twitter

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