“It’s sometimes hard to block out everything else in the room,” Michelin said. “[I] just try to relax and not worry about people watching. Just do your thing.”
Charlie Hightower, 50, has played pool his whole life, and loves the challenge that comes with league play. He’s working on elevating his game from what he calls a “barroom player” to something more sophisticated.
“Barroom players just shoot to shoot,” he said. “League players play what they call safeties. If you don’t have a shot you’re sure you can make, a lot of the league players hide the cue ball and leave their opponent a bad shot. It becomes a chess match. You’re trying to leave yourself a higher percentage shot and giving them a lower percentage shot each time.”
But Mehling looks at pool as a game that can be tailored to the needs of the player. It offers a little something to everyone. You can play it anytime of year since it’s an indoor activity, and it’s accessible enough that someone could afford to set up a table and cues right in their home. It’s a game that a person can play throughout their life, and it can be used to give someone time away from the world if they’re going through a rough patch in their life. Its versatility covers a lot of ground.
“It’s whatever I need it to be,” Mehling said. “It was something I could do with no one. It can be teams, and that’s great, but I’m a loner. If you’re thinking about something else, it gets your mind off of it. Plus it’s a game you can play no matter how old you are. [When] I’m 80 years old, I know I’ll still be able to get on a pool table.”
Kaleb Hall of Jasper plays at Ron's Place in Huntingburg on Jan. 20.
Currently, the Dubois County league has 13 teams with about 50 regular players. AGI, as a whole, has 32 teams and more than 150 players across all four county leagues. The league has players at all ranges of age and skill level, and they’re very welcoming of new members into their ranks.
“It’s very easy for people to come in,” said Hightower, who just started playing in the league this past summer. “It’s a good community of people.”
Mehling and Heim are always looking to add new blood to the league to keep things fresh and grow the competition pool. They encourage people to give the league a try if they’re interested, and say there’s no reason to feel intimidated or insecure about their skill level.
“It’s not about being good,” said Heim, who admitted he still has some growing to do as a pool player. “The only way to get better is to play better players. We’ve got a group of players that will take someone under their wing and teach them how to play. That’s what I enjoy about a lot of the players.”
Heim and Mehling consider themselves pool lifers, and they have ideas about how to grow the league. Heim would like to add more barroom games to AGI’s offerings, and Mehling wants to create avenues to introduce pool to younger people.
Claudia Weyer and Becky Workman, both of Jasper, shake hands after a game at Ron's Place in Huntingburg on Jan. 20.
“We’re capable of doing anything,” Heim said. “We can run dart leagues, corn hole leagues or whatever, and just manage what goes on from the back side. We used to run some countywide dart leagues years ago. Then the dart players fell off. [I] haven’t gotten back into pursuing that yet, but we may in the near future.”
“I have goals like trying to get in schools [in the form of] a billiards club,” Mehling added. She also wants to organize pool workshops with kids through places like the Teen Outback in Huntingburg. “The goal is to get the youth up playing, there’s a lot of places they could play that aren’t bars. I would like to get a junior league going. I go out to [Vincennes University Jasper], and I was trying to get a tournament out there. I’d like to get back into that. I would like to see the younger generation come up playing around here.”
But until then, Mehling will continue to enjoy the current pool-cue-wielding company she keeps.
“We’re a bunch of smart alecks that like to joke around,” she said. “And at the end of the day, we want to have fun.”
The Herald | Dubois County, Indiana | Saturday, March 21, 2020