By Aaron Kasinitz, The Baltimore Sun
11:32 PM EDT, June 28, 2013
Keven Moldenhauer doesn't have a problem with any other sports. In fact, he coached high school basketball for 10 years and is a fan of baseball and football.
But for Moldenhauer, a Forest Hill native and Salisbury graduate, nothing quite compares to the excitement of ultimate.
"In baseball, you're just waiting for that big play, maybe a home run or a double play. And in football, you're waiting for a big catch," Moldenhauer said. "In ultimate, those type of plays happen all the time. Every minute, there's a diving catch, or even better, defenders diving to deflect the frisbee."
The game's excitement breeds Moldenhauer's passion for the sport and explains why he devotes several hours to it each week despite his commitments to work and family. Moldenhauer, the player-coach of the DC Current in Major League Ultimate, is anticipating today's matchup even more than most.
The DC Current (4-6) is set to take on the undefeated Boston Whitecaps (10-0) in the first round of the playoffs, with a spot in the MLU championship at stake.
"We've worked at it, and I think we've devised a plan to hopefully compete with Boston," Moldenhauer said. "That's what we've been working for."
Ultimate is played with a flying disc on a 120-yard-long field, with two end zones, like a football field. Each team has seven players on the field at a time, and the player with the disc cannot move more than a step. To score, teams need to pass the disc to a teammate in the end zone.
Because the game moves quickly and the disc hangs in the air, the sport presents plenty of opportunities for highlight-reel plays. Sunday, Current defensive cutter Delrico Johnson leaped in the air, extending to reach for the pass so that his body was parallel to ground. He made the grab and fell into the end zone for a score.
The play was featured on ESPN's "SportsCenter" the next morning.
"Plays like that happen a lot," defensive cutter Matt Gordon said. "There's nonstop running and cutting, and there's chances for us to lay out and make cool catches."
For Current players, though, there's more to the sport than the spectacular play. The squad practices once a week at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, focusing on conditioning and schemes.
"I love how competitive it is," Gordon said. "This is the sport at its highest level, and we really do all we can to win."
During the season, the Current plays one game each weekend against another East Coast MLU squad. Combine the traveling with the practices, and each player commits a hefty amount of time to the sport.
Moldenhauer considers himself lucky. His wife doesn't mind that he obsesses over the game.
"She played some ultimate, too," Moldenhauer said. "So even though we have kids now, she's supportive when I travel."
Twins Matt and Bobby Gordon are both attorneys in Baltimore, but they never thought twice about devoting their time to the sport. They first picked up ultimate while watching fellow University of Maryland students playing on McKeldin Mall on campus as college freshmen in 2001.
"We've always just kind of done the same things, and we've always played ultimate together," Bobby Gordon said. "It's cool, too, because we know each other so well. I always know where he's going to be, where he's cutting."
Moldenhauer said the passion he and the Gordon twins feel for ultimate isn't uncommon. It's why he believes MLU will continue to grow.
"What I think sets this league apart from others is that we care about the game so much where we're willing to travel and spend a fortune playing," Moldenhauer said. "It makes for a very, very competitive product."
This week, Moldenhauer's goal is to travel to Boston and beat the league's top team. But in the long run, he has larger aspirations for the sport he believes is the world's most exciting.
"My dream is — it probably won't happen in my lifetime, but eventually — where ultimate gets to the point where it can be a top professional league," Moldenhauer said. "Then we won't have to worry about making time for it. It would be our job."
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