Last week, Baltimore Sun sports intern Aaron Kasinitz profiled Bear Davis, the Archbishop Spalding coach who was named head coach of Major League Lacrosse's Ohio Machine. It's an interesting story, well worth the read.
What's not mentioned, though, is that the last-place Machine happen to be missing a player they thought could elevate the upstart franchise. With the first pick in this year's draft, the Machine selected Peter Baum out of Colgate.
But Baum's out West, spending time in his hometown of Portland and preparing to move to Southern California to begin a marketing job for lacrosse apparel maker Adrenaline, which happens to be the parent company of LXM Pro, the other "pro" lacrosse entity in the country.
(In reality, no lacrosse player makes a living purely from playing the sport. Many need outside jobs. A few cobble together endorsement deals and camp jobs to make ends meet.)
Baum, the 2012 Tewaaraton Award winner as the best player in college lacrosse, has said repeatedly that his desire to help spread the game on the West Coast led to his spurning of the more high-profile MLL. He grew up playing in tournaments now run by Adrenaline, and credits that organization with helping him get recruited.
It also helps that joining LXM Pro opens up another avenue to make money: an endorsement deal with Baltimore-based STX. He joins Johns Hopkins grad Kyle Harrison, Salisbury alum Sam Bradman and former Syracuse attackman Tim Desko as sponsored athletes playing for the STX squad in LXM Pro.
"I think it just made a lot of sense for me to sign with STX and join in some of their efforts," Baum said Wednesday. "I've been using their gear since joining LXM and am excited to be a part of the family."
Baum became the first player west of the Mississippi river to win the Tewaaraton, and STX plans to use him heavily in the West Coast to expand business there. STX recently reached a deal to sponsor the elite youth team, the West Coast Starz, that helped Baum get noticed by the East Coast lacrosse establishment.
"He's a guy players from non-traditional lacrosse markets can look to," said Greg Tate, the marketing manager for men's lacrosse at STX. "He puts a face on the top-level of lacrosse, making the game feel more accessible."
Besides playing for Team STX, Baum will make promotional appearances and help with product development.
Because MLL is owned and operated by Warrior lacrosse, it has been difficult for players to secure endorsement deals with outside companies. MLL began offering other gear makers the chance to "buy in" to the league this season and outfit players in their gear. STX ultimately decided not to do so due to the price.
(I wrote about LXM Pro's business model and its rivalry with MLL earlier this year.)
Baum said he is happy with his decision to join LXM Pro. He's played only two games on the circuit, while counterparts in the MLL have played 10. LXM Pro's next tour stop is Chicago on July 20.
"I think the quality of the competition makes it worth it," Baum said. "It's not like MLL guys are practicing everyday, either. There's no situation that really allows that, so it's pretty even."
STX works the summer tournament and camp circuit heavily, Tate said, relying on its pro players to give a face to the brand. But the company also has a traveling marketing team and RV that allows players to test out new equipment. They even have a program that allows players to "check out" equipment and use it in games so they can decide whether or not to buy it.
Baum will take part in product demonstrations at future tournaments.
"When you're dealing with the West Coast, there's still so much teaching to be done," he said. "The level of the athlete has raised so much even since I was in high school, but the nuances of the game still need to be developed."
The key to growing the game, Baum believes, is convincing a West Coast school to sponsor Division I lacrosse. Denver has become a powerhouse, but Baum is hoping a school in California -- like USC -- will elevate its team and challenge the likes of Johns Hopkins and Maryland.
"I think you'd see explosive growth if there were more elite college teams out here," he said.
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