(Aug. 7, 2020) The annual Ocean City Lacrosse Classic, a nearly three-decade-old tradition, soldiers on in a reduced fashion starting Thursday, Aug. 13 through Sunday, Aug. 16.
Tournament Director Robert Musitano said the event was authorized after consulting with area health officials regarding appropriate safety measures.
“Each team has to go through a small covid checklist,” he said. “That they don’t have it [and] they’ve never had it.”
Other adaptations include prohibiting spectators and requiring players to exit the field within 15 minutes of games ending.
“They can’t hang around,” he said. “They put out the rules so we follow them.”
Participation this year is, unsurprisingly, lower than in the past.
“We’ve got 45 teams and last year we had 60 or 70-some,” he said.
Traditionally, the tournament’s footprint was a bit larger with games held in Ocean City and Berlin.
“We’re just at Northside Park this year,” he said. “We’re following all the CDC requirements.”
Regardless of other reductions, Musitano said one team is introducing a new fundraising endeavor this year to honor the memory of a departed lacrosse compadre.
“The Original Greene Turtle is sponsoring a fundraiser for Bryan Botti,” he said.
Original Greene Turtle owner Steve Pappas co-founded the Ocean City Lacrosse Classic with former college roommates Dave Cottle, Billy Packo and Tommy Dickerson.
The team sponsorship was launched by Pappas’ son, Stephen, after being approached by Nick Cloyd, both former teammates of Botti, who died in September 2015 after being struck by an automobile.
Stephen Pappas said he played several seasons of lacrosse with Botti, while attending Washington College in Chestertown.
“After he died his family created the Bryan Botti Memorial Foundation,” he said.
Cloyd said the philanthropic gesture was conceived earlier this year, prior to the pandemic, during a gathering in Botti’s honor at the Mt. Washington Tavern in Baltimore.
“We do a fundraiser up there with friends and family of Bryan,” he said. “A couple of the high school guys Bryan played with came up with the idea that it would be fun to gather a group to play in Ocean City.”
Recognizing an opportunity to garner support for the Botti Memorial Foundation, Cloyd, who resides in Berlin, took the lead reins in organizing the effort.
After contacting Stephen Pappas the two friends, and former cohorts of Botti, hatched a plan for the Original Greene Turtle to sponsor.
“He jumped on board with it right away,” Cloyd said. “Within a day we had a sponsor.”
For his part, Pappas was ecstatic to help lend backing to the Botti Memorial Foundation.
“They give out two scholarships to Hereford High School seniors and at Washington College there’s a Bryan Botti award every year,” he said. “It’s the only award of its kind at WAC for lacrosse players.”
After tracking down an array of Botti’s former teammates, and in some cases competitors, Cloyd said participants piled on.
“We couldn’t flesh out the team as easily as we thought but we got 26 guys pulled together on a roster that are willing to come down and play with a jersey on,” he said.
The Original Greene Turtle team is comprised of players from every stop in Botti’s playing career.
“We’ve got kids from Hereford High School, where Bryan graduated, and I played with him,” he said. “We’ve got teammates from his Washington College years.”
Cloyd said rounding out the crew are friends and friends of friends who knew Botti.
“It’s a pretty wild group of guys,” he said. “Some have won Division III championships together and played against Bryan Botti.”
The common thread among teammates, who range in age from 20-30, was Botti leaving a lasting impression on their consciousness.
“Even if it was as simple as he left a bruise on their forearm when they were playing against each other in college,” he said.
In addition to donations from Original Greene Turtle team members, other fundraising efforts include commemorative uniforms available on the Bryan Botti Memorial Foundation website.
“We designed jerseys to have the Botti Memorial Foundation logo patch on it,” he said. “It’s got his patch on the sleeve and on the leg of the shorts.”
Pappas said both clothing articles include the team sponsor logo and are emblazoned with 23, Botti’s playing number.
“We’re all wearing number 23, which is Botti’s number and people can buy the jersey off the Bryan Botti [Memorial Foundation] website,” he said.
Cloyd said a social media campaign to raise funds is also planned.
“We’ll update at halftime and the end of each game what the score is and if we won,” he said.
Cloyd said interested parties could choose the amount for goals or victories.
“They can send it right to the Venmo account for the memorial,” he said. “We’ll keep that live updated and posted throughout the weekend … on the memorials Facebook and Instagram.”
Tournament play commences next Thursday with men’s action at noon, and women starting off on Friday at 2 p.m.
Tournament games run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. next Friday and Saturday. Sunday hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.