Without taking off his shades, the bowler picks up his personal ball, a burgundy number with his nickname, "Mack," stenciled on it in gold. He raises the ball to his chest, concentrating, perhaps imagining the sound of 10 pins falling.
He reaches over and slides his left hand along an aluminum rail at his side. Then he takes position again, swings his arm back, runs forward three steps and releases the ball.
Seven pins fall.
"Too much hook," he says.
McKinley Young, 67, a computer specialist who lives in the District, has been blind since high school. He also is an avid bowler. For those who have never heard of blind people bowling, the idea that someone who can't see could play a game that depends so much on aim and precision may seem impossible.
But it's not. Thousands of blind Americans bowl.
Today, Young and his friend Tim Finan, a partially sighted bowler who has been Young's teammate in tournaments, are having a practice session at Bowl America in Silver Spring. This weekend, they will be in High Point, N.C., for a regional tournament.
On Nov. 17, the men and others will travel to Birmingham, England, for the international tenpin bowling competition and rules conference. There, they will compete and recommend the first-ever international rules for their sport, which could eventually lead to worldwide competition.
Young will head the U.S. delegation drawing up regulations to be recommended to the International Blind Sports Association. The group is responsible for establishing uniform rules to govern tenpin bowling competition for blind and visually impaired people internationally.
At age 16, Young was playing football when one of his eyes was damaged during a tackle. He lost the sight in that eye immediately and by age 20 had lost the sight in the other.
"I had never met a blind person. Had only seen one," Young said.
He graduated from a business college in Atlanta, expecting to get a job and build a career. But it took two years to get hired.
"That period made me feel the way I do now: Whatever each blind person does reflects on all other blind people," Young said. "It's not right, but it's human nature. So that's how I carried myself, so that no one would think we can't perform, can't do this or that."
If he's going to do something, he's determined to do it well--including bowling.
"Bowling challenges me, and challenges keep me going," he explained.
When Finan first saw Young bowl 20 years ago, he remembers saying, "That guy has a bowling form like a sighted person. Most blind people just swing the ball until they get momentum, then they throw it," Finan said. "It's not nice to watch, but it works. Mack concentrates on his form. I saw him, and I decided I wanted to become a little more elegant in my approach. I don't bowl like him, but taking time, studying my approach, being careful about delivery, all those are things he impressed upon me.
"He is fastidious in every respect--in dress, speech and manner," Finan said.
Young once thought bowling was boring. In the '60s some of his friends, who were not blind, persuaded him to try it with them. He was captivated and now has a bowling average of 119, considered good in his league.
"We would be at the bowling alley every day, if I agreed," said his wife, Shirley Young, watching her husband bowl. She will be the only person on the team with full vision, serving as a coach, pinspotter and overall assistant to the team.
The Youngs have been married for 43 years and have two sons and one grandson.
McKinley Young, who works for the Department of Veterans Affairs, credits his wife with helping in every way. "Before there was automatic machinery and sophisticated technology to help the blind," he said, "she read my lessons to me and learned right beside me."
Shirley's favorite Mack story is this: "The first time he came over to my house, I left him downstairs alone with my mother. After he left, Mother said, 'Shirley, that man is fooling you. He can see.' "
With this, Shirley laughs loud. Mack laughs, too. Without thinking, he politely muffles his laugh with his hand.
Young is a reserved man, serious about almost everything, including the upcoming meeting in England. But he can't hide his excitement.
"The hope is that bowling for the blind will grow--and for countries that have the facilities, there will be enough interest for there to eventually be international competition," said Oral B. Miller, president of the U.S. Association for Blind Athletes, which is sponsoring the U.S. delegation.
The United States is ahead of most other countries in developing bowling for blind adults, said Miller, who is himself blind. Early in the century, some state residential schools for the blind had tenpin lanes. In 1949, the first national championship tournament was held. Now tournaments draw as many as 1,500 participants and 125 leagues.
U.S. blind bowlers use a lightweight, 12-foot aluminum rail that is set up on the side leading from the ball dispenser to the lane. The bowlers touch the rail to center themselves. In most other countries, there are different methods: In some, sighted people lead blind people by the hand.
The United States plays Canada on a regular basis but seldom other countries. Now blind bowlers are optimistic that they are on the threshold of a major change in the history of the sport. Finland, Thailand, Japan, Switzerland, Spain and other countries are sending representatives to the meeting.
Young didn't begin to concentrate on excelling at bowling until he felt he had excelled at his professional career. He's now considered a leader in his sport and a proponent for it.
"I see the opportunity," he said, "to show the world that with proper equipment, blind people can bowl."