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Matt Rees is Orland Bowl’s ‘jack of all trades’

OrlBowl head mechanic Matt Rees | Tony Baranek/Sun-Times Media

Orland Bowl head mechanic Matt Rees | Tony Baranek/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 11, 2014 6:17AM



Here’s a hot bowling tip on a cold day from a guy who has pretty much seen it all from both sides of the pins.

The trunk of your car is not a good place to keep your ball, especially in midwinter.

Matt Rees, head mechanic at Orland Bowl, tells the tale of a bowler from a senior morning league who called the counter to report that a ball was stuck in the return.

The search ended in the pit behind the pins.

“When I looked down it was there in two pieces,” Rees said. “The ball had actually split in two, and it was very, very cold to the touch.

“I went walking up to them with the bowling ball in both hands, one half in one hand and one half in the other hand. It had split right through where the finger holes were.”

Rees isn’t as much an advice-giver, however, as he is an expert at preparing the lanes for 80-plus leagues at one of the Southland’s most popular centers.

The 47-year-old native of Hammond, Ind., began his career in 1982 as a porter at his hometown Bowl-Era Lanes. He also has worked as a full-time mechanic at Richton Lanes, and for the past 19 years at Orland.

His most important tool of the trade is a Kegel Kustodian Ion machine. But the job goes way beyond keeping the 50-lane facility well-oiled.

“Matt is my go-to guy. He’s a jack of all trades,” Orland Bowl manager Terri Burns said. “If I need a shelf made, a door closure fixed, anything we have a problem with, he takes care of it.”

The lanes, however, are his babies. Rees said his main goal is to keep the oil patterns consistent, despite some opinions to the contrary.

“The toughest part is keeping bowlers happy,” Rees said. “Some bowlers will complain that the lanes are too oily, some complain that the lanes are too dry, some that the conditions change and they want to know why.

“It’s a common misconception that places like ours change the shot. But there are a lot of factors involved. How humid is it? How dry is it? How warm is it? A lot of these things play a factor in how the lanes will play on a given night.”

Rees said when the lanes are cold and the building is cold, scores tend to go up. They also tend to go down when the temperatures begin to rise.

During the 2013-14 league season, there have been 38 perfect games rolled at Orland, and 66 competitors are averaging 220 or better.

Rees, who averages 224 in the Friday night Men’s Memorial League at Plaza Lanes in Highland, Ind., chuckled at the mention of “Scoreland,” the nickname Orland Bowl has been given due to its high rate of success.

“Oh, boy. It’s a cute nickname. Whatever,” he said, laughing. “We have a lot of leagues here, a lot of men’s leagues. I think if you would add up all the numbers and compare our center to other centers bowler for bowler, I don’t think we score any higher. I just think we get more (honor) scores because we have more bowlers. It’s a numbers game.

“Some centers score well and some centers don’t. The environment, maintenance, conditions of the pin decks all play a role. (The nickname) does irritate me a little bit, but it doesn’t make me want to try and change anything because we’re a high scoring center.”

Coming up

The Sun-Times/BPA Beat the Champs sectional qualifying for Chicagoland Section 4 will be hosted by Arena Lanes in Oak Lawn on Feb. 16. The men’s competition is to commence at 10 a.m. and the women at 1 p.m. … The 26th annual February no-tap doubles tournament is continuing at Palos Lanes, with times available at 9:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday and at 12:45 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Rules and entry forms are available at www.paloslanes.net or by calling the lanes at (708) 974-3200.



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