Jul. 9—ELIDA — Wielding an ornate pool cue only slightly taller than he is, 11-year-old Zander Block began dispatching colored balls atop the green felt table randomly into one of its six pockets.
He did so confidently and with what appeared to be relative ease. Later this month he's hoping to bring that same confidence to a highly competitive three-day pool tournament in Pennsylvania.
Block is no stranger to competitive pool. He won his first trophy at age 8, claiming a tournament title while playing with a broken wrist. He finished fourth last year in the Valley National 8-Ball League Association Junior Pool Championship in Erie, Pa. He and his family will return to Erie for this year's VNEA event from July 21-24.
Block is a soft-spoken young man who will enter sixth grade at Elida schools this fall. He said he first began shooting pool at the home of a family friend "because I was bored."
Dad Steve taught him "a little bit" about the game, Zander said, while Jackie Mason of the J & S Valley League in Moulton, along with family friend Dee Adkins, also served as mentors.
The more Zander played, the better he became. A couple of years ago the family purchased a table and placed it in the business office of Steve's automotive shop in Elida. It has become part of Zander's daily routine.
"I practice three or four hours each day during the summer," he said. "When school is in session I play an hour before school and three hours afterwards. It gives me something to do."
Eight-Ball is the traditional billiards game most commonly known simply as "pool." One player must sink solid-colored balls (numbered 1 through 7) while the other player tries to put striped balls (9 through 15) into one of the table's pockets.
Block said nerves won't be a problem when he heads to Pennsylvania later this month because he's been to the tournament previously and has made friends with some of the other competitors. A trip to Las Vegas for a tourney last year, however, was a little different.
"I was super nervous," he said.
Now a year older, and with his own clothing sponsor — Pure Bred Hustle Billiards — Zander is once again gearing up to compete in the junior division of the VNEA event in Pennsylvania. His dad, mom Teresa, brother Isaiah and sister Bailee will make the weekend a family event.
Teresa said local sponsorships are always appreciated to help the family defray the cost of travel and lodging during the tournament. Potential sponsors may call 419-296-0101.