By Lena Welch | 7/16/13 3:30 PM
I love lacrosse. I love North Carolina. So naturally, as soon as I found out that the 2013 MLL All-Star Game was going to be in Charlotte, I knew that I had to be there. Since then, I got a summer internship with the League and relocated to Boston, so the All-Star Game was a bit of a trek compared to Chapel Hill or D.C. I’m glad I decided to make it.
Here’s recap of my trip down to Charlotte for the All-Star Game:
I went into the League office Friday morning to print out my boarding pass and finish up some last-minute assignments before I embarked on my trip to Charlotte. At Logan, I boarded the plane without any problems. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had something else in mind in Charlotte. For the second day in a row, CLT (Charlotte’s airport) halted air traffic, leaving me at the gate in Boston. We got off the ground about an hour late for a flight that went a little too long. We touched down in Charlotte at 6 p.m. at an airport 17 minutes away from American Legion Memorial Stadium, but I made it just in time for the Team Selection.
The Team Selection process was a great start to All-Star Weekend. Just imagine, they’re all professional athletes and none of them has probably ever been picked last for a team, and yet someone was bound to be for this game. Like everyone else, I’m a fan of this sport and a fan of these players. It was awesome to see my personal favorites be selected and rooting for the players who remained. I also got to see the media guide in print. This was my project up in Boston, so it was really rewarding to hold the final product.
After team selection, I went to the hotel. While I was checking in, I met Coach Cerino. He was really friendly and seemed really excited to be back in Charlotte for the game. Then it was off to dinner. Marco and I walked over the restaurant with Brett Queener. I’ve been covering the Nationals this summer, so it was awesome to talk to a player I write about every week. Everyone involved in the All-Star Game was there, and it was really cool to see the players mixing with the behind-the-scenes people. I also drank a Shirley Temple, so I was living large. But I felt very small. Those players are huge. After dinner it was back to the hotel and back to work. I wrote the recap of the team selection process and then it was off to bed.
I woke up at 7 a.m. on Saturday. I think it was the excitement because I really didn’t have anything to do until the Moe’s Lunch at noon. The Moe’s Lunch was a wonderful event. I made some Vines of the players and fans, but really I just went to enjoy the experience. I watched each player help behind the counter with smiles on their faces. I watched Brett Schmidt interact with an excited family of Hounds fans. I watched Greg Gurenlian discuss the pros and cons of sticks with a fan. I watched Rob Pannell sign every autograph and take every picture. And I watched Ned Crotty not finish his lunch because he was too busy talking to people. For me, watching was just as good as anything else. I did also ask the Beast who would win in a fight between him and me. He wouldn’t say it, but I can assure you he would win. Overall, the Moe’s Lunch was incredible to be a part of. Lacrosse fans sat at every table, and that’s something I was very happy to see in the state where I go to school.
After the lunch, I went back to the hotel briefly before making my way over to the stadium. In the lobby, I saw fans loitering around waiting to meet players. And the players were more than happy to talk to them. Then I met Cathy Palasek. Mrs. Palasek is further proof that lacrosse moms are the people I get along with best. She and I talked about my school, her sons, and the League. I am delighted to have met such a kind and enthusiastic person. As we said, the lacrosse network is a small network, but it’s filled with good people.
Over at the stadium, I set up my spot in the press box and ran around doing whatever Marco and Alex needed. At one point during warm-ups, I turned to Alex and said, “the lax rat in me is freaking out.” Honestly, that may have been my favorite part. Nowadays, I spend most lacrosse games in a press box. Being on the field close to the action, even during warm-ups, was a lot of fun for me.
Well, shortly before the game, the skies opened up. Having lived in North Carolina for the past two years, I knew the state is prone to strange weather. But the rain must have known that we had something important to do because it eased up right before the start of the game. I ran down to the field for the anthems. My boss and good friend from UNC, Dave Lohse, sang the Canadian National Anthem. I had heard him sing it before and know he’s excited for lacrosse senior night 2015 so he can sing for [UNC Lacrosse middie] Chad Tutton, so it was awesome to get to see him sing it outside of his office. I filmed his performance and ran back up to the press box to begin the live tweets of the 2013 All-Star Game.
The game kept me busy with all of its action. Really, the game was more of a show. All of the best players showing off all of their best moves. Once again, the lax rat in me was in her happy place. I’ve been to more than my fair share of high school, college, and professional games, but this game was special. In fact, I’ve even been to American Legion Memorial Stadium on two other occasions for lacrosse. In 2012, Lohse, UNC Men’s Lacrosse, and I made our way down to the Queen City to face Hofstra, and I went to the Hounds’ season opener against Denver on my off day during the men’s and women’s lacrosse ACC Championships. The All-Star Game was the best.
These players represent this League and this sport. They’re at the top of their game and put on a great show for the fans. These guys really are the best of the best. The All-Star Game is a chance for guys have fun and play together. I’ve seen a bunch of these guys before. In fact, over the past two years, I’ve done the stats for games in which eight All-Stars have played. It’s pretty cool to now see them at the next level and being recognized for their abilities. You could tell that they were all having a good time, and I couldn’t help but have a good time too.
I also loved the Skills Competition. It was nice to see hometown boy Mike Sawyer break the world record for fastest shot. Quite the way to start off halftime. 114 miles per hour is no joke, y’all. The Long Distance Accuracy contest was also fun to watch. There have been many discussions in the MLL office about how that competition would go, but I think it went really well. It just kept getting better, although I would have liked to see my fellow Tar Heel get the victory. And of course there’s the freestyle contest. Each year the competition gets crazier. My favorite may have been Queener’s through the legs goal. I just liked seeing him sell himself out for the goal. All of the players were super entertaining. Kevin Buchanan’s stick skills are unmatched, Mike Stone’s impressions were hilarious, and I would have loved to see Rob Pannell’s shot from the crowd go in.
After the game, I ran down to the field to get some quotes from the guys. Despite the rain, everyone still looked so excited, and they were all signing autographs. I had to pull a few players away from the fans to get quotes, and they were all well-spoken and happy to tell me about their experiences. I also got the MVP and skills competition winners to help me out and autograph some balls, so look out for a great Freebie Friday prize soon.
I said goodbye to my adopted state Sunday morning. In the airport I saw a number of MLL fans, including two boys on my flight wearing hotel slippers. I appreciated the new style. I also got stopped at security. Turns out it’s hard to identify lacrosse balls on the x-ray, so the TSA agent had to check out my autographed balls, but they were all clear to travel back to Boston with me.