Pool room a haven for teens

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 13, 1999

A split-second snap of the pool cue sends the cue ball flying, exploding eight multicolored balls into every corner of the table.

Whether two or three balls, the cue ball or none at all make it into the pockets depends on your talent, a big helping of sheer luck and practice.

And practicing – and just plain hanging out – are things the regular crowd at The Captain’s Arcade at Rivergate Bowling Lanes spend plenty of time doing.

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On Sunday afternoon, there were more than 35 people, the vast majority of them teens, crowded around five pool tables in the game room.

Chatter, cigarette smoke and the snapping sounds of pool balls filled the air.

Dustin Rinaldi, 18, has been coming to the pool room for about two and a half years – long enough for one bystander to call him &uot;the pro around here.&uot;

&uot;I&160;don’t know about that,&uot;&160;Rinaldi said shyly, just before making another shot.

In any case, Rinaldi found more than a good game of pool at The Captain’s Arcade – he found his girlfriend, 16-year-old LaKeesha Richardson, there as well.

&uot;He and my brothers used to come up in here,&uot;&160;Richardson said before sinking the 2 ball. &uot;He asked me my name, and that’s how it started.&uot;

Now that Rinaldi attends Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson, he cannot come to the pool room every day like he used to. But he, Richardson and friends still spend two or three hours a day each weekend on the game.

As Jessica Bunch, 16, points out at a nearby table, &uot;There’s not much else to do in Natchez and not get in trouble.&uot;

For Rickey Mason, however, pool is something he practices seriously every day he gets a chance. Mason, who said he has played in pool tournaments for eight years, also said he plans to play in the U.S. Open in Virginia in five weeks.

Which means that, in addition to his job at Vidalia Apparel, he has to practice at The Captain’s Arcade every chance he gets.

&uot;It takes dedication and concentration, just like anything else you care about,&uot; Mason said, lining up that next shot with his cue.

&uot;You’ve got to devote your time to it.&uot;