What makes Billy Ronson run?
He is nearing 37, had major knee surgery at 35 and was not offered a contract by the Baltimore Spirit last season. He has played 15 seasons in Europe, seven with the Baltimore Blast and had an ordinary season with the Detroit Rockers of the National Professional Soccer League in 1992-93.
But that is not enough to make Ronson quit.
He is willing to risk his tiny frame (5 feet 4, 140 pounds) once more for another indoor soccer team -- the Baltimore Bays of the United States Interregional Soccer League.
He'll be on the Du Burns Arena floor tonight, darting all over the place and trying to be disruptive as the Bays open their first indoor USISL season against the Hampton Roads Hurricanes at 8:05.
"I think Billy feels he has a lot to prove to the Baltimore soccer community, that his career is not over," Bays coach Kevin Healey said. "Hehas looked good in practice for us after having an outstanding outdoor season [in the USISL] for us. I'm very happy to have him."
Healey, Bays owner Bill Wallace and general manager Ben Neil )) not only say Ronson will be a drawing card, but they also hope he can recapture some of the glory of his Major Soccer League career.
Ronson played in the MSL All-Star Game, was the most valuable player in a semifinal series win over the Wichita Wings in 1990 and shared the Blast MVP award with Dale Mitchell for the 1990-91 season.
If he could come close to that level, the Bays certainly would fare much better in their first USISL indoor season than they did in their initial USISL outdoor season last summer, when they finished sixth in the Atlantic Division.
"I feel I have something to offer to the Bays and all the soccer fans in town, regardless of what other people think," Ronson said. "All the fans in Baltimore who say how much they miss me playing at the Baltimore Arena now have a chance to see me play for the Bays."
Maybe those fans could not figure why Ronson was not asked to play for the Spirit after the Blast folded.
The right-knee surgery to repair a torn and ruptured tendon and age were obviously factors. But Ronson has a burning desire to show he can push his body beyond normal limits.
Still, knowing the end of his career is near, Ronson has spent the past two years getting ready for life after playing soccer.
He has coached the Goucher College women's soccer team two seasons, has worked in a sporting-goods store and in public relations for the Bays. Now, Ronson said he is ready to open his own business in Rosedale: Billy Ronson Soccer World.
"It's a great opportunity for me in the city I now call home," said Ronson, who is from England. "Baltimore has been great to me. I love the people, and they seem to like me. I'll probably spend the rest of my life here."
NOTES: To commemorate their first indoor game, the Bays will give away T-shirts tonight to all fans in attendance. . . . A mountain bike also will be given away in a drawing.