Billy Dee Smith Gave Me My First Stick
Most people who play professional lacrosse first picked up a stick before they could walk.
Then there’s me – I didn’t do it until I was 13.
It was Billy Dee Smith who gave it to me. He ran the camp where I first learned the game.
Before picking up a stick, I was a baseball and hockey player. My dad and his brother were both excellent baseball players who had been drafted into the MLB, and I felt a strong pull to follow in their footsteps. Baseball and hockey were the sports I participated in since diapers – literally, I was still in diapers when I played my first hockey and baseball games – and until I learned about Billy Dee’s camp.
It wasn’t just his camp. Mark Steenhuis also ran it. But my dad and I had seen Billy Dee out, and he is the one who introduced the idea of me checking it out. After some consideration, I figured I’d give lacrosse a shot.
I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. All I knew was a lot of my hockey friends were there, and I liked that.
But once I showed up, the sport itself grew on me. It took some time for it to fully take over, but it eventually did. A couple years later, I stopped playing baseball in favor of lacrosse. It was a very difficult decision for me to make at the time. I wanted to continue the family’s legacy in the sport, and I genuinely enjoyed playing it. I had competed at a high level in baseball growing up, and that was how I saw myself living. I had some inner-conquering to do to accept that wouldn’t happen.
Lacrosse filled that void and then some. I was more of an action kid. I was doing the most at any time. With lacrosse, I could rough it up a bit – much more than I could in baseball, anyway. That aspect of the game grabbed my attention and hooked me in.
It also brought me community continuity. The group that I played hockey with was the same group I played lacrosse with, and that meant the bonds I could build with my teammates in those sports were much stronger than in baseball. It was a special thing, and another reason why I felt lacrosse was right for me.
Obviously, lacrosse is the sport that ultimately won my heart against its two contenders. It has taken me to places I never expected to go, showed me things I never expected to see, and introduced me to people I never expected to meet. It has given me some of the greatest joys I’ve ever experienced in life and is an important piece of my livelihood.
I don’t know what the life of Tyson Bell would have looked like without Mark Steenhuis and Billy Dee Smith’s lacrosse camp and that first stick, and I’m glad I didn’t find out.