Showcase to promote first outdoor pro league


As 40 of the world's best lacrosse players prepare to take the UMBC Stadium field tonight at 8, a warning must be issued.

Purists, beware. This is not your father's lacrosse.

Tonight's game is the third of the Major League Lacrosse Summer Showcase, a seven-game series intended to promote what will be the first outdoor professional lacrosse league when MLL's eight teams begin play in June 2001.

"We're anxious to see what kind of crowd we're going to get, what kind of response," said former Syracuse star Casey Powell, as he sat in the ESPN Zone downtown on Thursday, signing autographs with two other attackmen: his younger brother, Ryan, who led the Orangemen to the NCAA title this year, and Mark Millon, a former Massachusetts All-American and World Team MVP.

"We just want to go out there and give the fans around here a good show."

Slow-down offenses? Methodic ball movement?

Not so much.

Welcome to lacrosse - MLL style.

Only three long-poles per team are allowed on the field at once, compared to four in collegiate lacrosse, making it easier for midfielders to dodge from up top and create scoring opportunities.

In the first two games, the two-point line (yes, two-point line) was 16 yards out, but it will be moved in to 15 for tonight's game.

Throw in a 45-second shot clock, no restraining box on faceoffs - enabling defensemen and attackmen to immediately go after the ground ball - and referees who aren't fond of blowing their whistles, and you've got a brand of lacrosse tailor-made for fastbreaks and high scores.

"I think the rules are subtle enough that they won't disappoint people who are 'lacrosse purists,' but at the same time, they're great for the game," Millon said. "They're going to speed up the game, for sure. The two-point shot is going to allow a team to close the gap a lot quicker in games that could potentially be out of reach."

Said Casey Powell: "The defensemen are happy, too, because they're bringing the ball across midfield and they're getting some nice feeds and some shots off."

The 40 players in the Summer Showcase are divided into two teams - the Americans and the Nationals.

The teams split their first two meetings this summer. The Nationals captured the first game in Columbus, Ohio, on July 8, 23-21, behind Millon's six goals and three assists.

The elder Powell's three goals and two assists led the Americans to a 17-12 win in the second game on July 15 at Villanova University Stadium in Philadelphia.

From Baltimore, the teams will make three stops in New York - Long Island, Buffalo and Rochester - before wrapping up the tour in Newark, N.J., at Riverfront Stadium on Aug. 13.

The mastermind behind MLL and the Summer Showcase is Jake Steinfeld, a Long Island high school lacrosse player turned California body builder, who now chairs the nationally recognized fitness program, Body By Jake Enterprises.

In a telephone interview on Thursday, Steinfeld said that the decision-making process for choosing the eight host sites for the league will begin the first week of September.

Baltimore is one of 16 cities that have expressed interest. Washington, D.C., is also vying.

Steinfeld would not speculate on Baltimore's chances but did sound impressed by the local response tonight's game has received. He estimated that "close to 3,500" tickets have already been pre-sold.

"The players were excited to play in Baltimore, because they know the fans and know the fans know the game," Steinfeld said.

They do know the game. But whether they'll embrace the version Steinfeld is pushing will be seen tonight.

Showcase facts

What: The Major League Lacrosse Summer Showcase, which features 40 of the best players in the world, all of whom played collegiately.

When: 8 tonight

Where: UMBC Stadium

Tickets: $12; UMBC Stadium box office opens at noon or call Ticketmaster at 410-481-7328

Local high school players: D Ryan Curtis(Landon, Virginia); M Dudley Dixon (Severn, Johns Hopkins); A Jesse Hubbard (Landon, Princeton); M Tucker Radebaugh (St. Paul's, Virginia); D Brian Reese (St. Paul's, Maryland); M Josh Sims (Severn, Princeton); M Lorne Smith (Gilman, Princeton); D Brian Voelker (Gilman, Johns Hopkins); A Michael Watson (St. Paul's, Virginia)

Local college players: M Mike Battista(Loyola); M Jake Bergey(Salisbury State); G Brian Carcaterra (Johns Hopkins); A Dan Denihan (Johns Hopkins); D Rob Doerr (Johns Hopkins); D John Gagliardi (Johns Hopkins); M A. J. Haugen (Johns Hopkins)

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