Major League Lacrosse will put on a nine-day season later this month in Annapolis, Md., and commissioner Sandy Brown says players are just happy to get back on the field in a safe environment.
MLL was supposed to kick off its 20th season May 30, but it had to postpone the season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The league announced its plan to hold a nine-day season in Annapolis earlier this month. The games will run July 18-26, and each of the six teams will play five regular-season games.
“We figured the easiest possible solution for us was to be in one place and I tip my hat to Governor [Larry] Hogan and to Vice Admiral [Sean S.] Buck for making the state of Maryland and Naval Academy available to us,” Brown said on Glenn Clark Radio July 8. “We’ve had a long and deep and rich history in Annapolis with the Bayhawks and with the Naval Academy. Maryland has done a fantastic job throughout this entire COVID situation. And it just worked out and our guys love coming to Annapolis.”
The decision to hold the season in Annapolis and play at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium gives the defending champion Chesapeake Bayhawks home-field advantage even though the games will be played without fans for safety reasons.
The Bayhawks will be joined by the Philadelphia Barrage, New York Lizards, Boston Cannons, Denver Outlaws and Connecticut Hammerheads in Annapolis. Each team will get a chance to play against each other during regular-season games from July 18-24. That’ll be followed by two semifinal games July 25 and a championship July 26. Games will be broadcast on ESPN networks and ESPN+.
The league spent the past few months developing plans to have a 2020 season while ensuring safety for players and staff. Brown said the priority was always minimizing health risks for everyone involved.
Teams have 25-man rosters with five additional reserves to make sure that there will be players should anyone test positive for COVID-19 or show symptoms. Any players who test positive before the truncated season will not make the trip to Annapolis, according to Brown.
“If in fact there’s anybody that tests positive … we have plenty of players from which to choose,” Brown said. “I would just also say that one of the great things about our sport in our league is that the parity is so high right now that we’ve got a tremendous pool of players from which to draw.”
The league has chosen to keep everyone in one place during the mini-season to effectively create a bubble. Players and staff will be staying at The Westin in Annapolis, and Brown says that they will have all meals there and that the players will have things to keep them busy.
“They will not be allowed to leave the hotel with the exception of going for runs or going to the stadium,” Brown said. “All their meals will be there. We’ll have a hospitality area set up that will be catered.”
Brown said he has spoken with the players and staff about the safety rules, and he has made it clear that is important for everyone to be at their best by being responsible and observing the directives of the league and health officials.
“I’ve said ‘At no time in your MLL career will your level of professionalism be as high as it is now [and at no time] will more be required of you as much as will be now because the actions that you engage in prior to arrival and upon arrival in Annapolis can have an impact on somebody’s life,’” Brown said.
The players will have opportunities to blow off steam at the hotel with games like cornhole, but Brown said he is not worried about anyone breaking the rules because the nine-day sprint will keep everyone busy and tired.
“Playing the amount of lacrosse that they will be playing in a short span in Annapolis in the second half of July … I don’t think they’re going to be spending a lot of time cavorting around,” Brown said. “We have to be very vigilant about all of this and I think that they’ve taken the responsibility very seriously.”
He said that the league consulted state officials and a number of physicians–many of whom work in tandem with other professional sports leagues — when developing the safety protocols.
At a time when other leagues, namely MLB, have been in the news because of player compensation, Brown said the payment structure is very clear and everyone is being fairly compensated.
“I think the biggest issue candidly is they’re just happy to be out playing,” Brown said. “I have a player call every other week with representatives from each of the teams and they’re just ecstatic to be out there. And I’m ecstatic as a fan to see them out there.”
For more from Brown, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of MLL