At this year’s Tewaaraton Awards held at the National Museum of the American Indian on May 31st, Peter Baum was named the top male collegiate lacrosse player of 2012. Baum, a junior at Colgate University, has certainly proven worthy of the accolade as the top scoring Patriot League Offensive player of the year that holds 176 career points.
After receiving his award and heading back to Colgate University, Baum took some time out to speak with Indian Country Today Media Network to discuss how he felt about receiving such an honor, and, what the game and spirit of lacrosse meant to him.
How did you feel when they announced your name?
There was a lot of emotion. I was just astonished. A lot of people asked me if I was surprised that I had won it. I don't think I was surprised as much as I was shocked at the fact that after God knows how many years of playing lacrosse you finally have a moment like that. It was pretty unbelievable.
When did you first get started playing lacrosse?
I started playing lacrosse in sixth grade, which is certainly not as long as some of the other guys but longer than some.
I played a lot of sports growing up, I loved soccer and I played hockey for a long time. I even played baseball before I played lacrosse. But when I got into lacrosse in the sixth grade I was good at it right from the start. I loved that you could really practice outside of practices and games. It was so easy to play wall ball or go shoot. I also had a good group of friends who liked to play.
Do you have any special training techniques?
I shoot a lot of balls. I get out and shoot every shot you could imagine, shots you are going to take in a game. My friends and I - and some of them have been very successful in college lacrosse - in high school, we would shoot four days a week, we would shoot before practice we would shoot after practice.
Were you influenced by any professional players growing up?
I always enjoyed watching the Powell's from Syracuse play. I think Kyle Harrison was my favorite player. I have been lucky enough to get to know Kyle really well over the past couple years. He lives in Los Angeles now and I have spent a lot of time with him. It’s been great watching him play over the years and then in professional lacrosse - I just love his style of play, he is so athletic.
How do you feel that the popularity of lacrosse is growing so quickly nationwide?
The fact that it is growing so fast is unbelievable. If I'm not mistaken I believe there are some 60 high school lacrosse teams in Oregon and guys go to play Division I every year. I love this game - so me being able to be a part of that and to be the first guy from a nontraditional area to win - I'm definitely proud of that. It is something that is important going forward. Just putting lacrosse in front of a mainstream audience - whether it's more games on TV or something more pop-culture related like the film Crooked Arrows - I think in a lot of ways it is a typical cliché type sports movie but I believe the message is definitely there and they've really done a good job from what I've seen thus far, since they're doing it with real Indian lacrosse players. I think it's going to be a pretty good thing for the sport.
How do you feel about the Native American aspect of lacrosse?
It is certainly fitting that they named this award the Tewaaraton Award and that the foundation has done things the way that they have in honor of the Iroquois tradition. I don't think it is something that enough players in the states are exposed too when they're growing up and playing the sport. It is absolutely amazing being able to listen to people speak at the awards ceremony. It was a thrill to me - I think it is important to honor the tradition of where it has come from and what it means to people. The Native history is a great part of the sport and it is great that they have, over the last couple of years, started to make that more of a point of emphasis.
I remember watching the final four on TV - regrettably, (laughs) and seeing that they had a segment at the beginning of the program that involved Iroquois tradition - it was great.
Have you ever played with the traditional stick?
I think I have tried - I have one now that Ron Patterson [Oneida Indian Nation member, master lacrosse stick maker] gave me, which was pretty cool. I'm going to have to whip it out and see how it goes.
What aspect of lacrosse do you enjoy the most?
I love the ability to move the ball quickly. The ball can get banged around so quickly and unfortunately you see a lot of teams trying to sit on the ball - in order to drain the clock and stall - which is upsetting a lot of people - I am one of them. I am sure the league is going to look at a way to adjust that.
But I know this is what attracts people to the game - if the ball can go from end to end in five seconds. It’s unbelievable, and it’s the best part about the sport. You can score goals in bunches, it's a game of runs - hopefully they can find a way to facilitate that a little bit more.
Where do you expect to go with lacrosse from this point?
I certainly want to play professional lacrosse first and foremost - playing is what I love to do. Thankfully there should be some opportunities to do that. But beyond that whether it's coaching or working in the industry or working pro and volunteering, I am going to be involved with this game no matter what.