It's welcome-back time for Thunder's old hands Sowell, Tucker set for opener tonight

The tales of two would-be indoor lacrosse retirees:

Rick Sowell had thrust aside his stick with the intention of devoting himself entirely to his coaching duties as a Georgetown assistant when a friend, Brian Kroneberger, called.


Retire? You can't do that. You'll miss it. You'll miss us. We'll be a better team with you. Promise you'll think it over?

Sowell thought -- and returned to the Baltimore Thunder.


John Tucker thought it was enough that he had played six seasons and was the Major Indoor Lacrosse League's career scoring leader with 174 points. Enough that he was coaching lacrosse and soccer and teaching European history at Gilman. Enough that he and his wife, Janine, have a 3-month-old son, Ryan.

No, Janine said gently, get yourself out there and make that $400 a game as a seven-year player.

Welcome back to the MILL, Mr. Tucker.

Their retirement attempts thwarted, Washington College grad Sowell and Johns Hopkins grad Tucker will help the Thunder open its season tonight against the Boston Blazers at the Baltimore Arena.

"Brian talked me into it," Sowell said of Kroneberger, a Thunder teammate. "He called after the scrimmage with the Pittsburgh Bulls last month and was persistent. He wouldn't take no for an answer."

Sowell may be 29, but he was by no means at the end of the line last season. With 35 points, he was second on the team to Jeff Jackson and made first team all-pro.

When Tucker announced his intention to retire last year, he was with the Philadelphia Wings. Later, the league switched high-scoring twins Paul and Gary Gait from Detroit to Philadelphia so they would be closer to where they live, which is Baltimore. The Gaits are the MILL's main attraction.

"It was purely a financial move," Thunder coach John Stewart said. "The league feels the Gaits can draw more people in Philly than here and that having them there will help sell the cable TV package. The Spectrum in Philadelphia has built-in facilities for TV, while TV trucks haved to be brought in do anything like that at the Arena."


To counteract the presence of the Gaits in Philadelphia, Stewart and general manager Darrell Russell asked the Wings for the right to try to talk Tucker out of retirement.

"At first, it was to join us as a coach," Stewart said. "Then as a player-coach. After a few practices, he sort of evolved into a full-time player again."

The Wings also wanted Tucker as a coach, which would have given the team two assistants, but the league disapproved of more than one.

"I was beginning to realize I might miss playing," Tucker said. "Being with the guys, even taking the knocks. John and Darrell made me feel right at home."

Stewart said he feels that Tucker will bring not only scoring to the Thunder but also insight into the game that will filter through to the young players.

"You need experience as well as the strong legs of the young," Stewart said. "It's a two-edged sword."