Fans lined the grassy knoll ad-jacent to UMBC Stadium last night. Some sat in the cool grass, while others chose to remain standing.
But they were all there for two reasons.
The first reason was to see the return of professional lacrosse to Baltimore. The second reason had nothing to do with finding a comfortable spot in the humid air - those were just the best seats they could get.
A sellout crowd of 5,513 overflowed the stadium to see 40 of the best players in the world face off against each other as the Major League Lacrosse Summer Show-case made its third stop.
Intended to promote MLL, which will become the first outdoor professional lacrosse league when it kicks off play in the summer of 2001, the Showcase showcased the edgy, in-your-face, breakneck style of MLL lacrosse.
Casey Powell put up four goals and three assists, earning MVP honors and leading the Americans. to an 18-15 win over the Nationals and a 2-1 lead in the series.
Powell's younger brother, Ryan, added three goals and three assists for the Americans, and Mark Millon recorded three goals and two assists for the losers.
Jake Steinfeld, mastermind behind MLL and the Summer Showcase, was delighted by the fan support. The game was the first sellout in the seven-game series after earlier stops in Columbus, Ohio, and Philadelphia.
"The fans are cheering, the kids are happy, the people Excited said Steinfeld, chairman of Body By Jake Enterprise. "And that's what it's about - coming out and having a great time and watching great lacrosse."
The players didn't disappoint, dazzling the crowd with their work on both sides of the ball. Offensively, the fans were treated to diving shots, behind-the-back bullets and bombs from beyond the two-point line.
But the defensive play was also stellar. With the referees serving as little more than black-and-white-striped backdrops for most of the night, the players were free to deliver brutal hits, and, when shots were fired, the goalkeepers came up with a number of tough saves.
The fans ate it up, and their enthusiasm seemed to signal. that they wouldn't mind seeing a great deal more of MLL lacrosse.
"I would love to play in my hometown," said St. Paul's and Virginia graduate Tucker Radebaugh, who chipped in a goal for the Nationals. "I think that would be great. The fans seemed to have a great time tonight. I hope it takes off.
Baltimore's previous experience with professional lacrosse abruptly ended after 12 years when the Baltimore Thunder of the National Lacrosse League boltad for Pittsburgh in July of l999.
There has been no serious talk of a return of pro lacrosse to Baltimore - until now.
Despite the pro game's troubled past here, Steinfeld seemed convinced that Baltimore fans would welcome his venture with open arms.
"You just know Baltimore is the land of lacrosse," said Steinfeld adding that 16 potential owners from Baltimore and Washington D.C., were in attendance at the game. "They love the outdoor game, and if you give them a great game they're going to embrace it.
professional lacrosse return to Baltimore last night.
An encore could be coming soon.