Let's Call Some Lax! Heading on Tour with the PLL
I’ll never forget my first year as a lacrosse announcer.
I was a 19-year-old kid in the thick of my sophomore year at Bryant. I had done some work for the Bryant Sports Network; some play-by-play for the men’s and women’s soccer team, some camera work for football & basketball, and a shift on the production crew every now & then. One day over the winter, we were called up to the Athletics office for our student worker meeting.
“Jake, you’re doing lacrosse” was something I was not prepared to hear.
I grew up as a die-hard baseball fan; my afternoons as a kid were spent playing catch with my neighborhood pals, and my nights were either spent running around the field or listening to John Sterling & Suzyn Waldman call the Yankees on the radio in my bedroom.
So naturally, I panicked about this lacrosse gig.
Bryant had a storied lacrosse program. They unquestionably had the best viewership of any sport on Bryant’s streaming site (only rivaling football), had a seasoned veteran and former Duke coach in Mike Pressler at the helm, and countless eyes from athletics donors & boosters.
My color commentator and I showed up, and I’ll never forget the words he uttered to the Bryant SID: “what are the rules again?”
You can imagine her reaction.
To save you 3 years of analysis, my experience at Bryant laid the groundwork for a sport that I grew to love. There were good days & bad ones, games that I was chomping at the bit to call & games that I wasn’t overjoyed about calling, and everything in between. But with every single game I called, I learned more. I learned why the shot clock rule was universally good for the sport, why there was constantly an attacker behind the goal, and why defenders had longer poles than the offensive units.
I also called this stick flip that went viral on Inside Lacrosse. That was cool.
After school, I kept giving this lacrosse thing a whirl. Boston University took me on in 2019 as a staff announcer, and lacrosse was one of my first assignments. And sure enough, the knowledge kept building; I began to understand what made a good team in the “ride” and “clear,” learned the true definition a “cutter,” and called my fair share of long-pole goals. Among some memories are a BU-Providence home opener in February 2020 before the world shut down, and Brown’s one-and-only game of the 2021 season. I was on the other side of the mic, too. Among many other events, I got to watch lacrosse at (what I believe to be) the highest level in the nation: the BIG EAST Championship, in which Georgetown picked off top-seeded Denver in Rhode Island.
In short, I like to think that this baseball-born-and-raised kid is doing alright with this whole lacrosse thing.
So naturally, when the pros call, you answer…and you don’t ask any questions.
I’ll be the PA Announcer for the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) Championship this year. It’ll be in Washington, D.C. at Audi Field, the home of DC United’s MLS club, in mid-September. There were a few recommendations for the fill-in for Chuck Lott – the voice of the PLL since its inception – and I’m honored to have even made the short-list…let alone be selected to fill these shoes.
To train, I’ll go on tour today for the PLL’s Week 8 in Albany, New York, where I’ll hop on the mic for a couple of games. As it stands, I’ll have the Atlas and the Waterdogs on Saturday, and the Redwoods & Chaos on Sunday. Atlas-Waterdogs should be a total bloodbath; the first and second place teams fighting to stay on top of the division is always exciting. The Redwoods & Chaos have both been in the middle of the pack, and they each can control their own destiny this weekend.
The PLL is one of the more fascinating experiments in the modern era of sports. Professional lacrosse hasn’t quite figured out its optimal way to penetrate into the sports market like its major-league counterparts in football/baseball/basketball/hockey. The MLL seems to be dwindling in interest – heck, even the Boston Cannons left for the PLL – and the NLL never really worked out besides serving as more of an “alternate” league. Players typically have day-jobs to make ends meet, as pro lacrosse doesn’t pay anywhere as lucratively as other leagues.
Although it’s far from perfect, but the PLL is on the come-up. Paul Rabil, one of the all-time lacrosse greats, put on his “business” hat and designed a league that’s really unlike any other. Teams don’t have locations; they’re just clubs that convene for practice and games. Instead of having home stadiums, the PLL has adopted a “tour” model; each week, they’ll bubble up and play a total 6-8 games in somewhat of a round-robin schedule. Their players range from recent college standouts to once-retired pro lacrosse greats, and their staff consists of well-respected coaching names throughout North America. And if you’re lucky, you might even see Paul Rabil suit up himself for the Cannons to pepper some unsuspecting goalkeepers.
I’m, of course, very excited to meet Paul and thank him for the opportunity in person & pick his brain on what he’s built.
To say announcing professional lacrosse was my goal – or dream – wouldn’t necessarily be accurate. But when the pros call and want you to step up, you do it.
I’m approaching this opportunity in a very simple way: I’ll go out there and be me. It’s silly to try to be anyone else.
It’s easy to have ambitious dreams in this business, but it’s sometimes hard to find a path to achieve it. As for my mindset? One opportunity at a time.
I’m beyond grateful.