The MLL Draft Experience

billy bitter charlotte hounds mll lacrosse

When you think of a pro sports draft, you probably picture the NFL version: Radio City Music Hall, the athletes up front with their families and agents, and jersey-clad, face-painted super fans, many from New York, in the upper deck, who boo every pick.

Since lacrosse isn’t on that level yet, we get to do things a bit differently. Many of us have followed the MLL since it was created. We’ve been here every step of the way; it’s our league. And while Major League Lacrosse (and lacrosse itself) is bigger than it’s ever been, it still has that community feel to it, which is what made the MLL draft so great.

Who was this year’s Steele Stanwick?

When I arrived at the draft (held last Friday during the US lacrosse convention), I actually walked right past the first set of open doors of the ballroom where it was being held. I saw Director of Player Personnel, Wade Leaphart, and Head Coac,h Mike Cerino, of the Charlotte Hounds, assumed the fan section must be somewhere else, and kept walking to avoid a potentially embarrassing security breach.

Turns out there wasn’t really a “fan section” (the teams were at tables facing the crowd), there was general admission seating, and I wasn’t going to get pepper sprayed after all, which was nice to know.

Once I walked in, I sat down with a bunch of strangers (something I can’t recommend enough during a trip to the lacrosse convention), who turned out to be incredibly knowledgeable fans. On my right, a son was explaining Matt White’s evolving role in a post-Stanwick UVA offense to his father. On my left, I got to chat with two guys about everything from Colgate’s strength of schedule to the Syracuse-Maryland 2011 Final Four game. We didn’t have any face-painted superfans, but I did spot a young Hounds fan in a Danowski shirt, and a young Lizards fan wearing a Syracuse #22 jersey, which, considering Marasco went 37th overall to New York, worked out pretty well for him.

As far as everyone else goes, it was a good crowd: laid back, a decent size (but the place wasn’t crowded), and lively, but not obnoxious. There was clapping for the picks, especially early on, and nobody booed anyone, not even the commissioner, which is essentially tradition at pro sports drafts these days. That was refreshing actually.

They had some quality music playing between picks (we’re talking stuff like Zeppelin/Sabbath & Jay-Z/Biggie mashups; didn’t see that coming), everything moved along at a steady pace, and the room itself was nicely decked out: bar in the back, candy and mints on the tables, and a staff handing out some fancy-pants coconut shrimp deals free of charge.

Several players (Greg Gurenlian, Ryan Boyle and Brian Spallina, for example) were in attendance for at least a portion of the draft, chatting it up with friends or checking in on their teams to see how things were going, but the GMs turned out to be the real stars of the show, making phone calls, throwing notes around like the night before midterms, and even hopping on twitter to assess/retweet fan reactions during the draft. Amazing how they kept it all together.

A few hours later, it was all over. The coaches/GMs met up with their competition to discuss their drafts, kids helped themselves to leftover candy on the tables, and Commissioner Gross took a moment to sit down and relax, while the crowd, which had started to thin out earlier in the night, made their way to the exits.

Someday the league might get too big for these kinds of things. Fans will have to sit outside for days, or know a guy who knows a guy who can get them in, just to be in the same building as the MLL draft. Until then, it’s great to be able to sit in the middle of everything and see exactly how our league comes together. Excellent job, MLL, you’ll see me again next year.

A few draft notes that didn’t fit anywhere else in this post:

  1. Last year, Denver was the scariest offense in the league, aren’t they concerned about having to replace both Poillon and Matthews in the same off-season? Meanwhile, are the Lizards going to bring out Rob Pannell, Tommy Palasek and Matt Gibson on attack, and launch Matthews out of the box up top like Denver did last season? So wait – who’s getting the short stick now? Max Siebald? Yikes.
  2. Rochester picking up John Kemp (25th overall) is interesting. I thought John Galloway made some big strides last season; are they looking to replace him? Are they worried about Galloway missing time with his NCAA coaching duties? No offense to the Friars, but the Providence season is probably ending much earlier than the one at Duke. Rattler goalies split time in the cage for one game last year, hope that’s not the case in 2013.
  3. When Zach Palmer (60th overall) was called, I thought we were in for a situation where the guy in your fantasy football draft stands up all smug-like and says “Roddy White” in the ninth round, and discovers he was picked an hour ago. After scoring 27 goals and 26 assists last year, what do the GMs see/not see that caused his stock to drop this low?
  4. Best-dressed of the night goes to Lizards coach Joe Spallina, who rocked a black suit with Lizard green necktie and matching pocket square. That’s the secret right there folks, you gotta coordinate.