Sunday, July 12, 2015

Florida Launch at Charlotte Hounds (MLL) - July 11, 2015


My next goal in sports road tripping is to complete all minor league ballparks by 2017. I have 73 to go, plus a few others that will open in the next two seasons as franchises move and old ballparks are replaced. Work really limits my opportunities for extended trips, so I have to take what I can get on weekends. This weekend saw a couple of Class A games near Charlotte, which is always a cheap flight from New York. Both the Greensboro Grasshoppers (Class A South Atlantic League) and Winston-Salem Dash (Class A Advanced Carolina League) were home on Saturday and Sunday, but I wanted to find a couple of other games to make the trip a little bit more worthwhile. The Charlotte Hounds of the Major Lacrosse League (MLL) were home on Saturday afternoon and the opportunity to see my first MLL game was enough to get me to book the trip.



The Hounds play in American Legion Memorial Stadium, a venue that was opened in 1936 and has aged quite well since. There is a parking garage right next door as well as several open lots that draw tailgating fans well before the face-off, but I wanted to avoid the $5 charge and thus left my car a couple of blocks away on Travis Street, right next to the Elizabeth Creamery, a worthwhile stop if you want an ice-cream before the game. The parking garage is useful for taking pictures though, both the skyline shot above and the aerial shot of the stadium are taken from its upper floors.



The ticket booth (below) is a real throwback and is probably 80 years old itself. It is just a concrete box with thin windows through which you can barely see the ticket seller, but it serves its purpose here as there is a small walkup crowd. Do not buy anything other than the $13.41 general admission seats ($12.50 before some silly tax) especially if you are there on a hot, sunny afternoon. This is because the only shade you will get is on the benches just below the press box (visible at the top center of the stands above), which are GA. As the sun moves west, the top few rows become shaded, so get there early and grab a spot, it will fill up as the game draws near.



Below is the panorama from this spot, with the parking garage visible across the way.



Start time was 3:30 while the Grasshoppers had a 7:00 first pitch, with about a 90-minute drive between the two stadiums. I had checked a previous game summary for the Hounds and the game time was 2 hours even, so I expected that I could see about 3 quarters of the game before leaving. But this one was televised, which meant several TV timeouts that added quite a bit of time to the proceedings, along with an awful lot of goals. The first half (30 minutes of game time) saw 19 markers with the visiting Florida Launch scoring 10 of those. As you can see below, the goalies don't wear much protection, which means that save percentages are just over 50%. It wasn't hard to snap a picture of the ball in the net.


Florida scored one weird goal when a Charlotte shot bounced off the crossbar all the way out to Florida's Kieran McArdle at midfield. A quick pass to Miles Thompson all alone in front of the Charlotte net and the goalie had no chance. Other than that, the goals were very similar, a consequence of the rules of the game,. The field is too big for any sort of fast break and three players on each teams cannot cross the midfield stripe, so outdoor lacrosse is more like handball (a terribly boring sport) than anything else, where teams move freely between attacking zones, then hold the ball trying for a shot, with most shots finding the back of the net. A 60-second shot clock does get things moving somewhat, but overall, box (indoor) lacrosse is more interesting.



Neither team led by more than 3, and there were several lead changes, but it was like a high-scoring basketball game without the athleticism. As well, the the two clubs were at the bottom of the eight-team circuit with 3-8 records coming in, so the match lacked any importance in the standings. I found the endless run of goals rather repetitive, so when halftime arrived at 4:40, I decided to make a run for Greensboro, missing the entire second half. For those who care, a last-second Charlotte goal forced the game into overtime. Early on in the extra frame, the Hounds took a penalty and Lyle Thompson (above) scored a power play goal to win the game for Florida 17-16. That's 33 goals in 60 minutes, not conducive to making a sport compelling to watch.

Still, I'll keep the MLL on my radar as there are seven other teams in the league, including one in Long Island, but I won't be making any special trips to see a game.

Best,

Sean

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