March 3, 2009

These Brothers Are a Terror

by Jac Coyne | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Mike Hatton has found a spot in the McDaniel midfield after transferring from Syracuse two years ago. The transition to playing for his oldest brother, Matt, has been a process - one that will hopefuly pay off for the brothers and the Green Terror.
© David Sinclair

Every time his head coach gave Mike Hatton a bit of constructive criticism last year, he bristled.

Who did this guy think he was?

There was this urge, bubbling up from his childhood, that made Hatton want to respond with something sarcastic or biting when the coach's game plan didn't jive with his ideas. It had nothing to do with the fact that Hatton played two years at Syracuse and was now at McDaniel, a Division III school in Westminster, Md. He wasn't trying to be a big-timer. He just wanted to let the Green Terror's coach know that he was going to fight him every inch of the way.

Brothers can be funny that way.

When Mike Hatton and the rest of the McDaniel team huddle up on the sidelines, it is around Matt Hatton, the third-year head coach of the Terror - and Mike's older brother by seven years.

Growing up, Mike and Matt were probably the closest of the three Hatton brothers. It was Dan, the middle brother and a former lacrosse player at Mount St. Mary's, who was the catalyst.

"I think Dan and I were always at each other's throat, and I think Dan and Mike were at each other's throat," said Matt, 30. "But I wasn't at Mike's throat because I was always a little bit older. Given the circumstances - and Dan and I are pretty close - I'm not sure Dan and I could have coexisted on the field."

"Most of the time it was Dan and Matt going at it, or Dan and me going at it," agreed Mike, 23. "It was always Matt putting Dan in his place for me. With a pretty big age gap, he'd always stick up for the underdog in that situation."

The three brothers have always been close, despite past conflicts. When Dan, the instigator, got married last summer, Matt was the best man. In November, when Matt tied the knot, Mike was the best man. After the announcement of Mike's engagement two weeks ago, Dan will assume the ring-bearing duties.

Even now, on off days in Westminster, Mike and his fiancée will go over to his brother's house for dinner and casual conversation.

In a perfect world, the brothers would be able to compartmentalize their filial and lacrosse relationships. Not surprisingly, the affiliation was not something that could be turned on and off that easily when Mike arrived last spring. The two tried their best to establish the ground rules, but rules rarely apply when it comes to family.

It didn't help that the entire team, not just the brothers, were discouraged in 2008. The Green Terror lost four one-goal games along with a 9-7 loss to No. 3 Gettysburg, finishing with a 5-10 mark and an 0-8 record in the Centennial Conference.

Matt Hatton became the head coach at McDaniel three years ago and, with the help of his younger brother, is hoping to qualify for the Centennial Conference tournament this spring.
© David Sinclair

"It was just a frustrating season for everyone, and that definitely took its toll. You can't let your emotions ever take over on the field," said Mike, in a self-admonishing tone.

After soft-selling the relationship for a while, the coach finally sat the player down.

"He said, ‘You're my brother, I love you, you're one of my best friends off the field, but once we're on the field, it is going to be completely different. And I don't want any answers when I tell you to do something,'" said Mike of his brother's lecture. "He's stuck to that, and I've done my best to keep my end of the bargain."

"My parents talked to me a little bit about that before it happened, and it has been a learning experience for certain," said Matt. "I wouldn't say we were at each other's throats, but everything we do is under a microscope because he is my brother. My philosophy is to let people's play speak for itself, whether it's my brother, a freshman or a senior, returning starter or captain. There were growing pains for sure, but it has gotten a little bit better this year."

This year the prospects are much better. Mike is completely healthy and past the foot and knee injuries that drove him from Syracuse, and the rest of the McDaniel team is ready for an uphill Centennial challenge. The Hatton brothers have also found a détente, helped by the fact that their parents are scheduled to make the trip down from Corning, N.Y., for several games.

"I think there are times when I have to bite my tongue, and there are times he has to bite his tongue," said Matt. "It's a learning process and it has gotten a lot better."

"It's an enjoyable experience being able to spend time with him," said Mike. "He's my brother. What can I say?"


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