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After 11 years of participating in the River City junior bowling league, J.J. Hacker recently rolled a perfect 300 game.
Daily photo by Emily Saunders
After 11 years of participating in the River City junior bowling league, J.J. Hacker recently rolled a perfect 300 game.

Saving his
best for last

Hacker bowls 300 game near end of 11-year run in River City league

By Paul Stackhouse
sports@decaturdaily.com · 3402460

After 11 years of participating in the River City junior bowling league, 18-year-old John Joseph Hacker rolled his final game Saturday at River City Lanes.

J.J., as he is called by family and friends, soon will graduate from Cullman High. He will attend Middle Tennessee State, where he plans to major in mass communications.

But before he packed his bowling ball away, Hacker made sure his name would be included in the league’s record book. On March 3, Hacker rolled a perfect 300 game, an achievement not many bowlers accomplish.

“You always think about rolling a 300 game,” he said. “It’s always in the back of your mind, but I’ve never really thought about being able to do it one day.”

That one day came while bowling in Decatur during qualifying to play in the Pepsi Tournament, a big event for Alabama bowlers in Montgomery. The perfect game came during competition — not just a practice round.

“About the seventh frame I started thinking about it,” Hacker said. “I threw a strike and started getting nervous waiting for the eighth frame. I guess the word started spreading because all of a sudden I had everybody here watching me. There wasn’t a large crowd here at the time, maybe about 50, but that was plenty to make me even more nervous.

“I was really trying to focus on the game with everybody cheering me on. I’m glad they were cheering. With everybody supporting me, I was able to focus on rolling a few more strikes.”

With pressure building, Hacker knocked down all the pins in the eighth frame. But in the ninth, something just wasn’t right.

“I just didn’t feel like I threw it right,” Hacker said. “I don’t know — I really thought I had blown my shot. Then the ball moved and hit flush in the pocket. In the 10th frame, I really was trying to stay focused, but I was so nervous it was really hard.

“On the first ball in the 10th, I threw a strike. Then I threw another one.”

Hacker found himself just one roll away.

“I let the ball go and it hit in the pocket — they all went down,” he said. “I fell to the floor saying, ‘Thank you, God, for not giving me a nine.’ I didn’t think I had it after turning it loose — I really didn’t. It just didn’t look good. But they all went down. All 12 of my rolls hit flush in the pocket for strikes.”

For a while, Hacker’s 300 game became a common conversation topic at the bowling alley.

Decatur’s Amy Sims was there. Sims has a daughter (Emily) and a niece (Tera Fairbanks), both 17, who also play in the junior league.

“It was exciting,” Amy said. “It’s always exciting here. This junior bowling league is just great for these kids.”

Sgt. Faron White of the Decatur Police Department was also present to see the magic game. White has a son, Jonathan, 17, who also participates in the league.

“J.J.’s a fine young man and one heck of a bowler,” White said. “I was behind him when he bowled the 300. It was awesome.”

Hacker’s father, Eddie, also saw the big game. Eddie Hacker has two perfect games to his credit.

“It’s easier to do it than watch it,” he said. “I’m really happy for him.”

The season usually starts around the beginning of a school year in August or September and runs for about 25 weeks.

For John Joseph Hacker, it has been a wonderful 11 years playing in the league. As for the future, bowling may take a back seat — he wants to work in the recording industry. But he just might stop by a local bowling alley and relive his great moment.

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