12/7/10 10:21 AM
By Jackie Branca
Across the world of sports home field advantage is something every team cherishes. Knowing you can go back home after a long and sometimes difficult road trip is comforting. You get back to familiarity, back to your city, your stadium and your fans.
Last year’s Chicago Machine had no such comforts. As the league’s traveling team, they spent every game on the road playing in a different city, in a different stadium, in front of different fans.
The 2011 season looks to change that. The protected 23 players from the Machine and head coach B.J. O’Hara will be able to enjoy the luxuries of home as they are now the Rochester Rattlers.
“Being part of different teams you notice home field as an asset,” Rochester’s Brett Garber said. “Now we have a home crowd that will be very welcoming and I think it will be great for the team and the city.”
Just before Thanksgiving, Major League Lacrosse announced it would be returning to Rochester, playing home games at Marina Auto Stadium.
League veteran Casey Powell, who played five seasons for the Rattlers from 2004-2008, is excited the league has returned to Rochester, adding, “I think the Rochester fans have missed having pro lacrosse in their backyard. This is another great chance for the community to enjoy watching a great game played by the world's best.”
After finishing 4-8 for the 2010 season, many of the players are excited to have a permanent home, feeling as though the travel really took its toll on the season.
“All the travel definitely put us at a disadvantage,” Rattler’s midfielder Matt Striebel said. “We had some issues with guys not being able to travel last year and it’s good to have a home now. Knowing you have a place where at least six of your games are going to be at home, that will definitely help this year.”
Rochester’s Bill McGlone reiterated Striebel’s comments, saying “Having a home will help with our routine. Last year was tough to organize trips and it started to take its toll. At the beginning of the season we started off hot and midway through, the wheels started to fall off and I think the travel did affect us.”
Not only does playing at home allow for the players to travel less, but they actually get to practice with each other too; an infrequent occurrence for last year’s team.
“The biggest thing about being a nomad type team is not being able to practice as often,” Striebel said. “You’re not able to get in a work-out or develop team chemistry. Last year we’d fly in and maybe once in a while get in a shoot around.”
Now, with a place to call home and the opportunity to practice and travel less, the Rattlers hope to build off of last season. McGlone added he hoped having a home field and having more of a routine will help prevent the team from falling into a slump like last season.
Like many of the players, Powell expressed the importance of having a home stadium, noting the impact of the home fans, saying, “Although traveling and playing around the country is a great experience, having a loyal and supportive fan base drives you on the field to win games for their respect.”
The players are also excited about playing in Rochester, one of the charter cities of the MLL. For eight seasons the MLL played in Rochester, with the Rattlers winning the MLL Championship in 2008.
“Rochester, since the start of the league has been an awesome MLL city,” Striebel said. “Its one of those places that’s got great history, smart fans and the organization is great. Rochester is a great minor league city. I think overall it’s gonna be great.”