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Joe Heery had a busy summer in the Deep River Horseshoe League. In addition to helping the White Sox reach the championship game, Joe penned the league’s weekly newsletter and also hit the airwaves to promote the sport. (Photo by Chris Negrini/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Joe Heery is an integral part of the fabric of the Deep River Horseshoe League (DRHL). This summer, Joe not only served as the league’s treasurer, he also wrote a weekly newsletter for all the participants and was a point of contact for local media coverage. As a competitor, Joe played in the A Division for the White Sox, who advanced to the league’s championship game.
Joe and his teammates, Cody Layton and David Atkinson, earned the No. 8 seed for the DRHL Playoffs. The White Sox swept the top-seeded Yankees in the quarterfinals and then defeated the No. 4 seed Reds in the semis to earn a berth in the final. The No. 7 seed Astros ultimately won the championship behind an outstanding performance from Cris “Cowboy” Christiansen in the championship.
“The first few games were pretty rough for me. I admit I was nervous going up against Cowboy, because he’s the patriarch of the league,” Joe says. “My third game, I ended up beating him. Then he just smoked us the rest of the way. I practice against him quite a bit, and I can hold my own against him most of the time, but everybody can’t throw a 50 like him. The average person throws a 25 to 30, and he’s out there doubling that score.”
Joe got his start in the DRHL after retiring from his job at Electric Boat. Joe had quite the auspicious debut season as a substitute player and has swiftly climbed the ranks since then.
“I’ve always played horseshoes. I have a pit in my backyard in Old Lyme. With my work schedule, I never had a chance to play,” says Joe, who served for 35 years in the U.S. Navy. “After I retired, I started playing again. In 2015, I was a substitute in the playoffs on a team with Frank Jolly and Ed Turner. We ended up champions that year. The next year, I was a C player, the year after I was a B player, and I’ve have been an A player for the past two years.”
Joe tries to get in as much practice as possible, whether that be at home, in the Deep River pits, or at the Lyme Senior Center. All that throwing helps Joe, who tosses a flip shoe, to perfect his form.
“I practice at home quite a bit, and I get some time in at the Senior Center. You can practice all you want, but playing in a match is different,” Joe says. “For me, it’s trying to remember the repetitive motion. I make sure I step with my left foot down. When I release, my hand should be up near my chin. That’s the goal.”
In addition to throwing shoes, Joe bowls in the Keglers Bowling League in Groton. Joe is also an avid rower who competed with the Blood Street Sculls for a number of years. Lately, he has stuck to rowing on an ergometer and recently hit an impressive milestone of 100,000,000 meters rowed. Joe feels that his pastimes have helped him at the horseshoe pits.
“Since I bowl, that kind of helps me with horseshoes. You’re trying to have the same motion, and you have to have that follow-through,” says Joe. “I played slow-pitch softball as a pitcher for years, too. That’s a lot like throwing horseshoes. You’re trying to drop the ball on a mat behind the plate as a pitcher.”
Joe’s contributions go beyond his performance in competition. Joe handles a lot of the administrative legwork in his bowling league and also coordinates his fair share of activities at the Senior Center in Lyme. Joe will exclusively handle the stats in the DRHL during the 2020 season next summer.
“I’m active in a senior bowling league out of Groton. I’m the administrator for that league. I’m in charge of the Force team. I do the stats for that league, and I write the newsletter for the bowling league every week,” says Joe. “I do newsletters that I send around for the Deep River League, too. Next season, I’m going to take over all the statistics. Because of my newsletters, I try to pick up quips from all the players and check in on every game. I do my picks of the week for the matches to watch.”
DRHL President Frank Jolly appreciates everything that Joe brings to the table. Joe’s newsletters have been a big hit with the rest of the league. Additionally, Joe talks up the league on the local radio station, Connecticut River Valley radio (iCRV), in Ivoryton.
“We recently voted on league officers, and Joe is going to be our statistician and reporter next year. It’s important, and he does it really well. Joe needs all the stats to do those reports, and it’ll make his life a lot easier if he’s in charge of the stats,” Jolly says. “Joe has done an excellent job this past year, and all the members really appreciate it. It’s a natural fit for him. Joe also had the weekly spot with the radio station in Ivoryton, and that has been really nice. It’s a pretty important radio station for this area.”
Joe’s appearances at iCRV have helped promote the league and raise awareness of the sport. On Thursday, Sept. 19, there will be a combination horseshoe-cornhole tournament that will feature people at the radio station helping cornhole players learn how to play horseshoes.
“I was doing a radio show with iCRV. I would highlight the previous week, and I think it turned out to be pretty good. They play a lot of cornhole at the radio station, and I told them that cornholers are really just people who want to play horseshoes,” says Joe. “This Thursday, we are having a tournament at the radio station. We’re going to match up players from the horseshoe league against cornhole players from the station, and we’ll play both and see who comes out on top.”
Joe encourages anyone who’s interested to get out there and toss a few shoes around to give the sport a try. Joe believes that it’s a great way to stay active at any age, while meeting plenty of nice people.
“Just come down in the summer when we’re playing. In March, we start ramping up the new season and, the first couple of weeks of April, we establish the handicaps. We always need substitutes,” Joe says. “We have a father and son team out there, we have a husband and wife team, and we even have a whole family out there throwing.”