Michael Evans remembers well his final game at Homewood Field.
Evans shut down All-Ivy League attackman Thomas Muldoon to help Johns Hopkins beat Brown, 12-11, in overtime on May 9, 2009.
"It felt good to walk off Homewood for the last time with a win," Evans said this week.
That is one of many fond memories Evans has from four years of playing at Homewood, which has been referred to as the "Yankee Stadium" of lacrosse facilities. Games against rivals Maryland and Syracuse are also quite vivid even eight years later.
"Homewood is one of the reasons why I went to Hopkins," Evans said. "Johns Hopkins lacrosse has so many great traditions, and Homewood Field is right at the top. What else can you say about that place? It's the mecca of college lacrosse."
Evans never imagined he would step onto Homewood Field wearing a helmet and cleats again. The Davidsonville native, who graduated from Johns Hopkins in 2009 with a political science degree, figured all future visits would be as a fan sitting in the stands.
That is why Evans is so excited about Friday night's Chesapeake Bayhawks game, which is being played at Homewood Field. The standout defenseman will get one more opportunity to tread the artificial turf on which he spent so much time as an undergraduate.
"I'm really pumped about this game. I'm so glad the Bayhawks worked out this deal with Hopkins," Evans said. "We didn't just play games at Homewood, we practiced there ever day as well. As a Hopkins player, that stadium becomes your second home because you are there all the time. I always get chills when I go back because my memories are nothing but great ones."
Evans remembers dressing in the old locker room located in the Newton White Athletic Center then taking the field through the gate located in the east end zone. For big games, like Maryland, the Blue Jays would enter the stadium underneath the stands at midfield.
"Crowds for lacrosse games at Hopkins are second-to-none in college lacrosse. It's a very loyal alumni base and there are a lot of diehard fans," Evans said. "You always have the band going on and that helps give Hopkins a great home-field advantage. I don't know if the Bayhawks will utilize that same band, but it would be awesome if they did. They could play the Hopkins fight song and the fans could count the number of goals the Bayhawks have scored."
This is the eighth year of Major League Lacrosse for Evans, who has been a perennial All-Star since being drafted by the Bayhawks with the 18th overall pick in 2009. The 6-foot, 225-pounder has a well-earned reputation as a shutdown defender in MLL and has covered such legendary attackmen as John Grant Jr., Brendan Mundorf and Casey Powell.
Evans represented the United States at the 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships. The South River High graduate is still among the best at his position, evidenced by the fact he was among 11 close defensemen selected by US Lacrosse to try out for the 2018 national team.
"On the field, Michael is a big, intimidating presence on the defensive end. He is one of the best cover guys I have seen in this league. He can cover any type of player," Chesapeake head coach Brian Reese said. "On top of that, Michael is a vocal presence. He helps organize our defense and really talks guys through the system."
Evans has been a team leader for the Bayhawks pretty much since his rookie season. He's an intense competitor and is known for delivering extremely physical play.
"Michael has a huge value at practices. Let's just say he keeps things interesting," Reese said. "You never know what he is going to say, which makes it fun. He has challenged guys with some verbal banter. When Michael was out last year, we missed his spirit and leadership as much as his play on the field."
Evans has been bothered for years by a nagging back issue that involved a displaced disc pressing on the nerves of his legs. He underwent surgery to correct the problem five months ago and said it's made a major difference.
"This back problem has been bothering me for seven years. I finally said enough is enough and took care of it. Now I feel like a million bucks."
Evans currently works full-time for Folger Hill, a Boston-based hedge fund founded by former Johns Hopkins lacrosse player Saul Kumin. The 29-year-old laughed when asked how much longer he'll play professional lacrosse.
"Until I can't compete. For now, I still enjoy the competition and feel like I can help my team win," Evans said. "If I start getting smoked on a regular basis, I'll think otherwise."
Playing at Homewood Field again on Friday night will produce a flood of memories for Evans, who will think of Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala giving fiery pregame speeches.
"Coach Pietramala remains one of my biggest mentors. I remember him talking about the importance of playing at Homewood and how the current players had a responsibility to represent those that came before," Evans recalled. "To be able to play another game at Homewood is awesome and something I never thought would happen. I really hope this becomes an annual thing."
Evans was a three-time All-American at Johns Hopkins, earning the prestigious Schmeisser Award as the best defenseman in Division I as a senior. Pietramala, a two-time Schmeisser Award winner and arguably the greatest defenseman in Hopkins history, considers Evans one of the finest players he has coached in 17 years at the helm.
"We are very, very proud of what Michael did here at Hopkins and all that he's accomplished since he left. Michael is one of our all-time greats," said Pietramala, adding that he maintains a "very, very close relationship" with Evans. "To have Michael come back home and step back on Homewood Field again is certainly going to be a special moment for him."
Pietramala played an instrumental role in gaining approval from the Johns Hopkins athletic department for the Chesapeake Bayhawks to play at Homewood Field. The idea was initially broached by Bayhawks general manager Dave Cottle, who hired Pietramala as an assistant while head coach at Loyola Maryland.
"Coach Cottle reached out and said the Bayhawks were thinking of playing a game in Baltimore and would it be possible to play at Hopkins," Pietramala said. "From my perspective, it's a no-brainer. You get to showcase two professional teams and some of the best players in the world on our historic Homewood Field. It was an easy decision to try to make this event happen."
Bayhawks president Mark Burdett said advance ticket sales for Friday night's game against the Atlanta Blaze have been better than typical home games. The Baltimore Ravens are holding their spring outing for employees as part of the event while youth lacrosse organizations from southern Pennsylvania and western Maryland are also bringing large contingents.
"I think Johns Hopkins has a responsibility to support lacrosse at all levels and the Bayhawks are the local MLL franchise," Pietramala said. "To provide the Baltimore-area lacrosse fans an opportunity to see the professional product made a lot of sense. It's great for the Bayhawks, it's great for Johns Hopkins and it's great for the Baltimore lacrosse community."
Chesapeake Bayhawks vs. Atlanta Blaze
Homewood Field, Baltimore, 7:30