This afternoon, I asked Matt Ward, one of the stars of the Washington Bayhawks, whether he knew the full-time careers of two of his newest teammates, Nate Bauers and Joe Kestermann. He did not.
"I write policy reports," Bauers told him.
"I fix cars," Kestermann said.
I can't say that Ward was particularly fascinated by this information, but I sure was. The Washington Bayhawks, of course, are D.C. newest pro team; they're in the 10-team Major League Lacrosse, having moved here from Baltimore in the offseason. Home games are at Georgetown, except this Saturday's season opener, which is at George Mason. It's indeed a pro league--there are trading cards, and guys get paid--but with game checks running from $10k to $18k for the season, most of the players have non-lacrosse jobs.
My interest in those jobs started during the player introductions to the media. While most of the Bayhawks were in lacrosse gear, defender Christian Cook was wearing a suit and sunglasses; he was introduced by team owner Jeff Harvey as a former Secret Service agent. "Ha ha," we cynical media types thought. But nope, Cook is actually a former Secret Service agent, having started his service three days after he finished business school, leading me to ask a whole bunch of his teammates what this was like.
"He's missed a game here and there; very hush-hush about it," Kevin Frew said.
"I think he had to take a gun with us once; that was kind of weird," Casey Connor said.
"If someone starts a little scruff, you know he's been trained to kick the....you know he's been trained to handle himself well in awkward situations," Chris Gill said.
"Paranoid is not the right word; you have to have great awareness," said Cook, who was talking about lacrosse at the time but might as well have been talking about his former career.
Anyhow, the point of the media day was for the players to train the media members how to play lacrosse. Most of the media members instead chose to stand around awkwardly, attempting to avoid having to play lacrosse. A few with lacrosse histories attempted to display their skills. PR person Steve Winter, acting the part of the blissful boss at the company picnic, bounced around the field while sending lacrosse balls in random directions. And I, having seen a greenish-pinkish welt the size of a plum on goalie Chris Garrity's thigh, spent media day asking the players in attendance how they make a living.
Ward sells commercial real estate; his sales team recently closed a 45,000-square-foot deal. New goalie Garrity--the team traded a keeper, two first-round draft picks, and a third-rounder for him last week--is an electrical design engineer for KTA Group; he helped design the electrical systems in the Capitals' new practice facility. Frew works for Kelly & Associates Insurance Group; he used to help businesses structure their health-care plans, but now he's starting in the payroll processing division. Connor works in sports marketing for Under Armour. Brendan Healey is in law school. Cook retired from the Secret Service and now works for Booz Allen Hamilton.
And, as mentioned above, Bauers writes policy reports and Kestermann fixes cars. The policy reports are on intelligent transportation systems and dynamic-pricing toll systems; the cars are mostly BMWs and Mercedes that are brought to the Kestermann family business, Foreign Car Service in Alexandria, where he does repairs, works in the body shop, deals with customers and answers the phones. The duo both made the team after attending an open tryout in the offseason; Bauers compared himself to Vince Papale from "Invincible."
"We're weekend warriors, as they say," he said. "The way I look at it is, it's something I'd be doing anyhow. Why not get paid? I don't consider this a job, though. We work hard, but I don't think any of us look at it as a job."
Of course, some players do make a living in lacrosse. Tom Marechek, who will turn 39 the week of the MLL championships, is a full-time lax coach and instructor. ("I tell myself every year, 'I think I have one more year'," he told me.) Others aren't in a position where they necessarily need a full-time job.
"I sit home and do chores for my mom, that's how I get money for rent," said Chris Gill, a recent George Mason grad who's waiting for his security clearance. "I mow the lawn, do a little mulching, you know. That was my most recent gig. My mom, for some reason, loves for me to cut down trees and plant the same exact tree in the same exact spot. She does pay well, she does pay very well. Plus I eat like $1,000 of [her] food a month."
As for the cubicled players, some have taken unpaid leave or vacation for lacrosse, others are given the time off. Frew makes sure to tell clients about his other job; "it's a great conversation piece," he said. Harvey, the team owner, was explaining to me how the full-time jobs mean his players "don't have an ego, they're very in tune with the world," when Casey Connor walked by.
"You taking off?" Harvey asked his defender, who was wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
"Yeah, I've got to get back to the office," Connor said apologetically. "I changed [clothes] right when I got here. Typical: pull up and drop trou."