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Competitive pinball bounces back

Monday - 2/27/2012, 6:40am  ET

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Chris Newsom competes in the Fairfax Pinball Open Sunday, Feb 26, 2012. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
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Kathy Stewart, wtop.com

FAIRFAX, Va. - A pastime you may have thought died with disco is alive, and the flippers were flying this weekend at the 9th Annual Fairfax Pinball Open held at John's Place Café.

Pinball is not a thing of the past. There are leagues and tournaments right here in the metro area. Paul McGlone is an attorney and avid pinball player who runs the Fairfax league.

There are leagues in College Park, Md. and Elkridge, Md. They are all part of the Free State Pinball Association.

McGlone says the weekend's event features world-class competitors.

"Yeah, I'd say three of the best in the world are here: Chris Newsom, Trent Augenstein and Dave Stewart," says McGlone.

Catrina Enders, from Pittsburgh, Pa., was one of about 80 players who turned out for the three-day tournament.

Enders, who is in her early 20s, says she did not grow up with pinball.

"I remember a little as a kid, but I really started playing about a year ago," says Enders.

Enders says winning a cash prize would be great, but she plays because of her passion for the game.

"If someone told me a year ago that you're going to be in a pinball league and you're going to travel four to five hours, I would not believe them," she says.

Top pinball player Newsom says he has been operating pinball games at John's Place Café for about eight or nine years.

"There's a pinball community out there but it is sort of gone underground. Unfortunately, it is harder to find nowadays," says Newsom.

"We're trying to keep that going here and other places in the D.C. area."

Putting on this event takes an army of volunteers, but McGlone says it's a labor of love.

"It's a lot of work to just get the people here and get the games here. The Internet is really what's made it work."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)