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2009 E-Lacrosse Feature: Bayhawks in Annapolis

This past weekend, the now Washington Bayhawks returned to Maryland for a game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. They delivered one of the biggest crowds I've ever seen at a Bayhawks game with a reported 5,792 fans. These numbers don't rival Denver or even Boston crowds, but 5,000 is pretty good for MLL games generally.

So the Annapolis numbers were good. But don't think that means that the team should move to Annapolis. I noticed that tons of the license plates at the game were from Virginia. The 3,000 regulars at the games at George Mason University made the 40-minute trip and a couple thousand Anne Arundel County laxers showed up, too. Annapolis is a great day trip for anyone, so as a one-time thing, the Virginians hit the road for a home game -- but those Virginia numbers would dwindle should the team move. I saw only a smattering of the old Baltimore Bayhawks fans at the 2007 games in DC and even less now in northern Virginia. I think the team should play one game per year in Annapolis, honoring veterans in some way, and just keep that location special. Fans like a diversion, just not a desertion.

Expectations for pro lacrosse crowds are usually way too high. I remember driving up to cover a Bridgeport Barrage game played in a minor league baseball stadium. The setting was quaint. The seats were all close to the field and the 3,500 or so fans filled half the park. It seemed electric that night as the fans got into the lacrosse. The team had only played a few games in Bridgeport at the time and lots of the fans were already wearing Barrage stuff. To me, that was a great success. I envied the owner of that team. I believed, based on my knowledge of lacrosse and reading many books about the birth of pro sports and innovative executives like Branch Rickey, that this team was on the way to long-term success. It was the first time I thought the MLL might actually succeed financially. A few weeks later, I heard that the team would probably be moved because of the bad crowds in Bridgeport.

The Bayhawks (3-6) lost the game Saturday to the Cannons (6-3). Homegrown DC area stars Matt Ward and Brendan Healy scored two goals apiece and Ward added an assist for the Bayhawks, but Sean Morris led Boston with four goals. Morris, from UMass, was the Player of the Game.

Our friend Hunter Lochte looked good for Washington, as did Conor Gill and Kyle Dixon. But I thought the big star of the day was Boston rookie Paul Rabil, who had three goals from just inside the two-point line that just ripped past the keeper. He needs to get his timing and distance down so he is shooting two-pointers. In this version of the game, he will be the most valuable player in the league if he takes those from another foot away from the cage.

The Bayhawks return to George Mason Stadium in Fairfax, Va., on Saturday at 7 p.m. They will play Rob Scherr, Matt Danowski, Scott Urick, the Peysers and the New Jersey Pride (3-5) for their final home game. It's only about a 50-minute drive from Baltimore at that time of day, so you can see some of the best lacrosse in the world if you care to. We'll see you there!

July 25, 2008
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