6/9/11 12:00 AM
By Craig Rybczynski - June 9, 2011
Joe Walters will enjoy one of his shortest commutes to a Major League Lacrosse game this Friday, driving the five minutes from his downtown loft to Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, NY. He knows the route well having played there for three seasons. But this trip is different for the Rochester native.
The five-year MLL pro will play in front of the home fans, but it will not be in the familiar gold, black and white of the Rochester Rattlers. It will be in the orange, purple and white of the visiting Hamilton Nationals in a 7:30 p.m. contest against Rochester.
“It is going to feel weird. I played here for three years,” said the 26 year old. “It is definitely one of the best stadiums in the league. It is a unique situation because I am so familiar with the area. I am excited for the game.”
Walters played in his hometown from 2006-08 after getting selected first overall in the 2006 MLL Collegiate Draft. The game will mark the first time that the former Rattler will play against his former team. In 2008, Walters helped Rochester win its first Major League Lacrosse title and was named the Playoff MVP.
“The ’07 and ’08 teams were two of the best teams I have ever played on,” said Walters. “The 2008 team was the best team ever assembled. You had superstars like John Grant Jr., Colin Doyle, Casey Powell, Jeff Zywicki, Brodie Merrill, Jack Reid, Alex Smith and the list goes on. To be on that team and win a professional championship for Rochester is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Walters is in his second season with the Nationals, joining the team in its inaugural season in 2009 with a number of other Rattlers players after Rochester ceased operations. With many of the same players that won the Cup in 2008, the Toronto Nationals won the Steinfeld Cup.
After winning back-to-back titles, Walters took the summer of 2010 off. This season marks his return to the MLL with the now Hamilton Nationals. The Rochester Rattlers franchise is also back in the MLL after a two-year hiatus. Although playing for a different franchise, the former Irondequoit High School standout lauded the revival of the Rattlers.
“It is very important that they are back in the league,” said Walters. “This is one of the hotbeds of lacrosse, despite being one of the smallest cities in the league. The people in the lacrosse community are great. To have two pro teams shows the respect the lacrosse world has for Rochester.”
Walters is one of seven players from the Rattlers’ 2008 championship team will return to Rochester for the first time in three years. Joining Walters are John Grant Jr., Jordan Hall, Brett Bucktooth, Brett Queener, Sol Bliss and Brodie Merrill.
“I am excited. It seems like a season ago since our last game. Time off can be frustrating mentally after a loss,” said Hall, who also plays for the Rochester Knighthawks, about the end of the NLL season. “It’s also nice to play in front of the Rowdies. I hope they remember 2008 and winter ball while watching (me play Friday).”
Hall, Walters, Jarrett Davis and Cody Jamieson are also members of the NLL’s Rochester Knighthawks. All four players were instrumental in the resurgence of the Knighthawks, which culminated in a berth in the NLL Playoffs. The Knighthawks finished 10-6 and in a three-way tie for first in the East Division. Jamieson led the team in goals and was an All-Rookie Team selection, while Hall was named the league’s Sportsmanship award winner. Davis was third in rookie points and shared the community service award with Walters, who had 11 points in five games.