May 31, 2012

Beyond Dreams: Oregon Kid Baum Takes Tewaaraton

by Matt Forman | | Twitter

Colgate's Peter Baum, an Oregon native, became the first men's Tewaaraton winner from west of the Mississippi River. "I don't even think that in my wildest dreams I could have imagined this, growing up playing lacrosse in Oregon," Baum said in his acceptance speech Thursday night.
© Greg Wall

2012 Tewaaraton Awards

* Baum, Schwarzmann Win
Schwarzmann Carries on Maryland Tradition
* Video Recap (Men): Baum, Costabile, Manny, Sawyer, Stanwick
* Video Recap (Women): Dashiell, Lynch, Schwarzmann, Thornton, Tumolo
* Pre-Event Poll: Who Should Win?

WASHINGTON — Less than an hour after accepting the head coaching job at Colgate last July, Mike Murphy called Peter Baum. Murphy, who previously occupied the post of Army's defensive coordinator, knew what it was like trying to slow Baum, the Raiders' leading scorer. In short, no easy task.

Murphy's message at the time, as Baum recounted Thursday: "Next year my goal is to take this team back to the NCAA tournament. And I know you're one of the best players in the country, so next year I envision you on the Tewaaraton Award stage, just like Army's Jeremy Boltus [a finalist in 2011]."

Within a week in mid-May, Colgate won its first-ever NCAA tournament game against then-undefeated UMass, and Baum was named a finalist for the Tewaaraton, the greatest individual award in college lacrosse.

But Baum's 97-point season took Murphy's prognostications one step further than expected. On Thursday night, the nation's leading scorer was named the Tewaaraton Award winner.

"To who Peter is, he dismissed it when I told him that," Murphy said. "He told me, 'Coach, all I want to do is win.' When I hung up the phone with him, I knew we were in pretty good hands.

Baum took the Tewaaraton men's honor over finalists Steele Stanwick (Virginia), CJ Costabile (Duke), Mike Sawyer (Loyola) and Will Manny (UMass).

"Wow," Baum said on stage during his acceptance speech at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. "This has been an unbelievable experience. I wish I could say this was something I dreamed of growing up. But I don't even think that in my wildest dreams I could have imagined this, growing up playing lacrosse in Oregon.

"When coach Murphy called me in July to say he was becoming the new coach at Colgate, he told me that he saw this moment for me. And I didn't believe it. But I'm just thankful they believed in me the way they have. They made it the best year of my life."

Baum and women's Tewaaraton winner Katie Schwarzmann were presented their awards by Hall of Fame Cornell coach Richie Moran, who was at the ceremony to accept the Tewaaraton Legends Award on behalf of the late Eamon McEneaney while also being honored as the recipient of the 2012 Spirit of Tewaaraton Award.

Two $5,000 Tewaaraton US Lacrosse Native American Scholarships were also handed out, to Marissa Haring of the Seneca Nation and Bradley Thomas of the Tuscarora Indian Nation. They will attend Lock Haven and Canisius, respectively, in the fall.

Baum — hailing from Portland — became the first winner from west of the Mississippi River and the first in Colgate history.

His victory capped a suspenseful lead-up to Thursday's announcement, as there was no clear-cut favorite entering the evening. The Selection Committee traditionally placed significant emphasis on postseason performance — before Baum, each of the last 10 winners played on Memorial Day — but 2012 had a different feel.

Stanwick, the reigning Tewaaraton winner, had gaudier numbers this year, but Virginia lost in the quarterfinals to Notre Dame. Costabile and Duke reached the final four, but no primarily defensive player has ever won the award. Sawyer scored only seven goals on the Greyhounds' run to the title, during which teammate Eric Lusby became Loyola's leading scorer. And Manny played on UMass' high-powered attack that featured a trio of 50-point scorers.

But Baum was certainly deserving of the award. Three other finalists said Thursday they would select Baum if they had a vote. (Costabile and Manny each received one vote from the fellow finalists.) Baum led the nation in goals (67) and points (97), the latter of which was the most for a finalist since Duke's Matt Danowski in 2007, setting eight school and Patriot League records in the process.

"I certainly didn't foresee a 97-point season," Baum said before the ceremony. "I never like to put goal and point total estimates or expectations out there before the season. I never like to predict how I'm going to do. But I definitely felt good coming into the year."

Baum seemed genuinely shocked when his name was announced, dropping his head into his hands for a few seconds before standing and walking to the stage.

Later, Baum said: "I'm speechless. This is unbelievable. Everybody has a great shot at the award. With five finalists, you feel like you've put a good resume together, but you have no idea how it's going to go. To be standing here in front of all these people, the Godfathers of the sport if you will, means so much. I'm so proud."

Colgate didn't enter the season on the national stage, but Baum quickly made sure they emerged as contenders. He took off after an early-season move from midfield to attack, where he spent most of his sophomore season. He totaled eight goals and two assists against Robert Morris in his first start after bumping down, and he never looked back.

"We were just so top-heavy at that midfield, we had to move Pete back down. It sparked us," Murphy said after the ceremony. "Peter is just a different kind of player. He's a hybrid type. They honored Matt Danowski and Ned Crotty, past winners, earlier tonight. That's what we talked about doing with Pete — being a midfielder, being an attackman. He was just a lacrosse player. We needed to put Pete in positions to be successful, whether that was up top, behind the goal, on the wing, coming out of the box, whatever. We just needed to get Peter the ball."

Baum said offensive coordinator Mike Abbott "revolutionized" Colgate's offense with the move. The Raiders averaged 8.9 goals per game in 2011, and then scored nearly 13.1 per game this season.

"I actually like playing midfield more than attack," Baum said. "I love being above the goal. I love the transition. I love to run. Previously, I felt like playing attack constricted me. We started off two games into the season, it wasn't working as well as we would have liked. So we made that decision together to bump down.

"It really makes me a tough guy to cover. Defensemen don't like to play above the goal, they like to play behind the goal. When I can come out and play behind the goal, get an assist, and then on the next possession I can go above the goal, their defense has to change, or the guy covering me is uncomfortable. It makes a big difference. Without that midfield background, I would never have that diversity."

Baum was born in Seattle and raised in Portland, where played soccer and hockey when he was younger — at least until his dad bought him his first lacrosse stick in fifth grade. Baum played in an indoor game that winter and decided to play field for the first time the following year.

"I took to it right away," Baum said. "Loved it. And it's growing like crazy out there. I'm very proud of that."

He posted loud numbers for Lincoln High (Ore.), totaling 180 goals and 70 assists in three years, and he was twice named an All-American. Alongside Patrick Rogers (Denver), Aaron Prosser (Drexel) and Henry Schoonmaker (Syracuse), Baum reached the Oregon state championship game in back-to-back seasons, winning it as a junior in 2008.

Being from the West Coast, Baum wasn't entirely sure how his skills would translate to the college game, but he didn't want to wait to make an impact. He thought he could do so at Colgate, where both of his parents went. His father, Richard, played lacrosse at Colgate in the mid-1970s.

"Going through the recruiting process, I looked at tons of schools: Bucknell, Penn, Brown, Maryland, Duke a little bit," Baum said. "In the end, I just felt like Colgate was home. It felt right. I just thought it would be a good opportunity to play right away, from day one. You only have four years to play college lacrosse."

Baum set Colgate's freshman scoring record with 29 goals in 2010 — a mark that was broken this year by Ryan Walsh, who scored 38 — and registered a team-high 34 goals as a sophomore.

"As a freshman, I realized pretty quickly that speed translates at any level," Baum said. "The fastest players — you look around here [at the Tewaaraton ceremony] — are often the best. CJ Costabile, Will Manny, these are guys that have great speed. But I worked really hard on my skills. A lot of wall ball, a lot of shooting on my own."

Baum's hard-working nature arguably has become his defining characteristic — the one coaches and teammates mention first. When Murphy was asked about his favorite Baum memory from his first season at Colgate, he said: "This is the moment that sticks out the most. Peter called me on the Friday of Thanksgiving break. The day after Thanksgiving. He wanted the keys to get into the indoor facility," Murphy said. "He went to visit his grandparents that live in Albany, had Thanksgiving there. Came back, and just wanted to get some shots in. That's what Peter Baum is about: the dedication of a young man to make himself better, while making his team better."

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