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MVP? Peter Baum?

August 9, 2017
In the beginning of the season, I talked very candidly with Peter Baum. We talked about his job, life in New York City and his decision to go to attend law school after the summer. Then, lacrosse came up and the 2017 MLL Season began to make its way to the front and center of our conversation. We talked about the first game in Atlanta, we talked about missing Marcus Holman, Kyle Harrison and Tom Schreiber. 

To say the least, this was the conversation I had been dreading. But even after we talked, he was just calm and very relaxed. I could tell he was disappointed and was obviously going to miss his teammates, but he wasn't mad or worried. 

He just said, "Things Happen." 

Things Happen...I have to be completely transparent here, that really set the tone for the season. Baum is a team leader, he may not wear the "C" but guys follow his example. And ultimately I think that's what he was doing here.

I think that was Pete just trying to let the team know, very clearly: We are missing guys and that's unfortunate, but they will be back so let's play our best, support each other and get back to the playoffs -- that's it. End of discussion.  

Peter Baum has been everything and more for the Ohio Machine this year. The three-time All-Star is having his best season as a Sheen since joining in 2014 with 31 goals, 2 2pt goals and 19 assists for a total of 52 points (career high). 

Growing up in Portland, Oregon, Peter never really pictured himself becoming a division one lacrosse athlete let alone one of the best players in the world.

“It’s funny, all of us West Coast guys are kind of like a fraternity of outsiders,” he said. “But honestly in Oregon, the feeling was just different, I didn’t start playing lacrosse with the intention of going to college for it. I thought the pinnacle would be going to some good division three school.”

Back then Oregon was a bit of a newcomer to the lacrosse landscape, so Baum relied on his athleticism, tough work ethic, and diligence to guide him to lacrosse success.

“You definitely had to be a self-starter,” he said. “I mean I didn’t even pick a stick until the sixth grade, which is a big difference to the majority of my teammates, but I focused on it quickly.”

Focus might be an understatement. 

In middle school Baum soared past his opponents, “I was just a lot better than the other kids, just based on my athleticism, lacrosse came naturally for me.”

However, that feeling would quickly change for Baum once he entered his freshman year of high school. “In high school you’re competing with kids that are three years above you. I mean I played junior varsity my freshman year, so I knew I wasn’t god’s gift of the earth or anything. That was very humbling.”

After that first year, Baum formed an inseparable bond with high school teammates, Patrick Rodgers and Aaron Posser. They would spend their days training on the Bridlemile Elementary School tennis courts and working out at the Multnomah Athletic Club.

“Having two buddies a year older than me was awesome because we had a strong core group that was really good,” he said. “We just made each other better and worked with each other to improve every year.”  

“I used to watch YouTube videos of Kyle Harrison all the time,” he said.  “I would watch those and then practice the skills for hours and hours and eventually everything just kind of clicked for me.”

Peter did advance every year and was fortunate when it came to his college search. He was granted several remarkable options, but he always knew he belonged at Colgate.

“Both my parents went there,” he said. “I originally looked at playing hockey, but in the eighth grade I realized I probably wasn’t good enough, so that changed my focus. To be honest I just always found myself cheering for Colgate lacrosse and that’s what really sealed it for me.”

As Peter transitioned into East Coast lifestyle, Colgate went through a bit of a bumpy battle.

“We just weren’t that good my freshman year, but individually I had a great year, I set the freshman record for goals and started every game, but it was hard to be really proud of yourself when you couldn’t celebrate as a team.”

After Baum’s freshman year a new coaching staff was hired. The new staff gave Baum and his teammates an opportunity to reinvent the Raiders.

“Coach Murphy just kind of let us loose, they let us play and we ended up having the best year in school history.”

“I didn’t anticipate that year actually happening, but I can honestly say we did all the work in the offseason to make it happen. It was after that summer that I knew I could play in MLL.”

But it wasn’t just Colgate that had a successful year, in 2012 Peter became the only person from west of the Mississippi to win the Tewaaraton Trophy. “That was a surreal experience and something I still think about to this day. Not in the context of what I did, but with the perspective that it was a capstone on what was an incredible year for me and a group of guys that to this day are still my very best friends.”

“We had just come off falling short of the final four, so it gave me back that sense of pride and accomplishment of our incredible season. And it really summed up my whole journey, a West Coast kid winning the Heisman of lacrosse, it’s astounding to be the face of that.”

The persistence he displayed throughout his college career carries over into his professional endeavors.

“He’s just not afraid to get out there,” head coach Bear Davis said. “He leads from the front and other players follow in his footsteps.”

But the question remains, where does this drive come from?

“That’s an interesting question,” Baum said. “I think some people have a really neat, boxed up answer that sounds great like maybe they are playing for a family member or hometown. But for me, I just loved the game.”

“I didn’t really think about wanting to be the best but I did compare myself to my peers. I was one of those guys that would check the stats and if we lost a game, I would obviously be upset, but if I played my best I would be able to sleep ok. Now, if we won and I played terribly, I would be kicking myself because I didn’t do everything I could to help the team.”

For Peter, the sense of competition is what drives him to be better not only in the lacrosse but also to his various professional accomplishments. The 26-year-old has already had a remarkable amount of success in sports consulting and marketing. Baum is even attending law school at the University of Washington this summer.

“I guess ultimately the competitive side of you matures in a sense, but you never really lose that drive to want to be as successful as you possibly can. You just have to decide what you want to be and work hard to become it.”  

The team's starting lineup has changed countless times during this season due to various reasons. But Peter Baum has been one of the few staples the Ohio Machine has relied on in 2017. Baum virtually ranks in the top five for every major statistical category.

Baum’s career high in points for a single game came this season against the New York Lizards on July 29th where he captured eight points. Here he finished off his fourth hat trick of the season with five goals, a two-point goal and an assist. 

With having yet to miss a game this season, along with leading MLL in points and ranking fifth in assists (19); Peter Baum is making a very compelling case for claiming the league's MVP title.

In Moneyball Lacrosse’s Joe Keegan, “in Baum, the Machine has a versatile MVP candidate who can sting a two-bomb or throw it back to his college days with an invert.” Here, Joe shows Peter Baum’s versatility with the two-point threat along with his ability to turn from an All-Star midfielder into a threatening attackman.

The argument of Baum having the criteria to win the league’s MVP is not in question. We know that number 15 has as good as a chance as anyone in the league. With the Playoffs starting Saturday, August 12, Peter Baum will look to help lead the Sheens to another championship match.