Chris Bocklet simply wasn’t getting anything done. The former John Jay attackman spent most of the first half of his Denver Outlaws debut last summer running away from the action, which prompted a swift intervention from a veteran teammate.
The locker room pep talk was punctuated with plenty of brotherly attitude.
“It was the first time we played a game together against the Ohio Machine,” said Matt Bocklet, a long pole defender with six years of Major League Lacrosse experience. “He was a little shy in the first half, and hadn’t taken a shot. I went up to Chris at halftime and told him that he could either be part of this team or they would find somebody else.”
The response was immediate.
Chris Bocklet went back out and threw in three goals, helping the Outlaws to a 16-8 win and earning MLL Rookie of the Week honors.
Over the last year, momentum has continued to build.
The former University of Virginia standout is leading the MLL in lacrosse with 33 goals in 10 games, all of them wins. He’s currently second in the league in scoring with 42 points, one behind Boston Cannons midfielder Paul Rabil.
“The biggest factor in that is the fact that our team has been playing so well together,” Chris Bocklet said. “I’m a player who doesn’t like to carry the ball. When I’m scoring, it’s because of the ball movement. I’ve never felt this free playing lacrosse. I’m just real loose, enjoying the whole experience.”
Impact play does not go unnoticed.
Chris Bocklet was selected to participate in the MLL All-Star game Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. It’s a 7 p.m. faceoff, and the game will be telecast on ESPN2.
“This is amazing,” he said. “I grew up watching this game. The MLL wasn’t huge, but we always found the All-Star game so it’s cool to be a part of it now. I’m excited about helping to grow the sport because there are so many talented players in the league.”
And that list includes rookies JoJo Marasco (Somers) and John Ranagan (Yorktown).
Only a select few MLL stars can make a living playing the game professionally. Rabil is widely considered the best player in the league and earns a reported $65,000 per season. A handful of top professionals get small endorsement deals, and can bolster the bottom line by working the multitude of youth camps in lacrosse hotbeds.
Matt Bocklet, 27, is the head coach at Highlands Ranch High School in Colorado and runs DoCo Lacrosse, a travel program with former Hofstra standout Brian Langtry. Chris Bocklet, 23, was the assistant coach at Wheat Ridge High School in Colorado and he works a number of camps. He is looking to go to grad school for a master’s degree in education and sees himself one day coaching at the high school level.
“You have to have a side job,” Chris Bocklet said.
The entire family plays a role in the X-10 Mountain Lacrosse Academy, a camp that incorporates a number of outdoor adventure sports with locations in the Rockies and closer to home in the Adirondacks.
And those obligations involved with making a living are a major hurdle for MLL.
“It’s hard to get everyone together,” Chris Bocklet said. “You might practice late Friday night and early Saturday morning, and then play a game. People are coming in from all over the place, so you hardly ever have the whole team.”
The league is growing.
Denver drew a record 31,019 fans to Sports Authority Field at Mile High on July 4 to see a 16-7 win over the Long Island Lizards.
“It was awesome to go out and play in front of so many people,” said Matt Bocklet, who played in three MLL All-Star games. “That game outdrew the Final Four, and it was incredible show with a big fireworks display afterward. There are great sports fans out here, and they really understand the game.”
That’s not how it used to be.
Brian Kuczma was playing for Boston when the MLL started up in 2001 and the former Yorktown star who is now coaching Putnam Valley remembers some quiet nights.
“My first three years in Boston, and even after I came back with Philadelphia, they would consistently get between 6,000 and 10,000 people for the games,” he said. “They did a great job getting out there and selling tickets. Then you would go to places like Long Island and Baltimore and play in front of 1,200 people. It seems like the non-traditional places draw better.”
National face time is helping.
“Lacrosse was a novelty when I played,” added Kuczma, a two-time MLL All-Star. “Now it’s big, and there’s so much more television exposure for college games, so fans can follow those players into the pros.”
Matt and the rest of the Bocklet family will be in Colorado working the X-10 camp, so they will watch the All-Star game on a flat screen, expecting a couple of highlights from Chris.
“He might have the ball for 30 seconds total in a game and score four or five goals because he does all his work before he gets it,” Matt Bocklet said. “He’s definitely excited. He loves the big stage. He loves playing on television. He loves the big crowds.”
(Photos courtesy of Denver Outlaws)