(excerpt from ESPN The Magazine - May/April 2000 issue)
Makes sense: A dude who twirls a mean stick likes to twirl mean dudes on sticks. The Red's new leftfielder - and Foosball fanatic - Dante Bichette (left), takes us for a spin.
Only here could Dante Bichette be told "You must have a great snake" by a guy. On this spring training evening in Siesta, FL, the new Red is proud to flash his snake (and pull dink) on The Beach Club's Foosball table - in the process of wasting the local pro five straight times. Few of you even knew there was a pro Foosball tour. Fewer still knew that Bichette could join it.
"Besides an at-bat, nothing is more intense", Bichette says. He began to master the game at 14, when he and his older brother Mike worked at a games center in Orlando. Now, he's as good as anyone. "I took second at the Nationals [amateur division] during the baseball strike", he says. "I had my best year in the majors the next season because when I went to hit, I was much more focused".
Bichette draws a crowd at The Beach Club not because he's a ballplayer but because he "slaps the tin" (you know: lights the lamp, puts the biscuit in the basket, Goooooal!) like gunshot. Bichette's 13 polyurethane men dribble and pass like Brazil. Tonight, he moves the ball up to his front line and prepares the fastest shot (up to 70 mph) in Foos - the snake shot, which comes closest to spinning without breaking the 360° - rotation rule. His tongue licks the air just before he slams the ball past the way-late goalie. Craig Hendrickson, the humbled pro, is impressed: "He's got the fundamentals". And next game.
(right) Dante Bichette with (left) Mark Thompson - President of American Foosball Association/Thompson Sporting Goods at The Beach Club.
Signed American Foosball Association polo shirt that was worn by Dante Bichette.