If you want to “Get to Know” Washington Stealth transition player Kyle Hartzell, you can start with one fact: the kid wins championships.
Hartzell, a native of Dundalk, Md., won his first championship in 2004 with the Community College of Baltimore County – Essex, where he played defensive midfield, winning the NJCAA National Championship in his second season with the team. He moved on from there to perennial NCAA Division III powerhouse Salisbury State University, adding another National Championship to his resume in 2005.
While most players would be satisfied with one championship in their collegiate career, Hartzell still harbors a grudge for what could have been.
“I should have four [national championships]. I played in two championship games where we lost in overtime,” he says. Hartzell’s first season with Essex ended with an overtime loss in the NJCAA championship game, and his Salisbury career ended similarly, with a 13-12 overtime loss in the NCAA Division III championship game.
Champions remember those things, and strive for revenge. But with his collegiate lacrosse career behind him, Hartzell has worked extremely hard to earn his vengeance in the pro ranks. In 2010, he did so in a big way.
2010 marked Hartzell’s second season playing indoor lacrosse after signing with the Stealth as a free agent prior to the 2009 season. He’s played 21 regular season games in his two seasons with the Stealth, and after learning the intricacies of the indoor game, his speed, athleticism and knack for the ball earned him a spot in the lineup during the Stealth’s playoff run in 2010. Hartzell earned his first pro championship as the Stealth defeated Toronto in the Champion’s Cup final in May.
“Winning the NLL Championship was unreal,” Hartzell says. “Being only my second season playing box and with that group of guys made it really special. A lot of credit goes to the Stealth organization from top to bottom. They put together a great team and sold out the Comcast Arena for the championship. You could feel the energy in the building. It makes you play that much harder.”
Once the celebration from the Stealth championship died down, Hartzell was headed back east to suit up for the Chesapeake Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse. Back in his natural habitat of field lacrosse, Hartzell had a great summer in the MLL, even earning some Youtube fame around the lacrosse world. More importantly, the Bayhawks rebounded from a five-game losing streak to make the playoffs as the four-seed.
“We knew we had a good team,” he says. “We just wanted to get to the playoffs, where our record didn’t matter anymore and anything can happen.”
Well, the “anything” that happened was a surprising run to the MLL title for Hartzell and the Bayhawks. Hartzell’s play was a major factor in the championship, as he was credited for shutting down two of the MLL’s biggest offensive threats, including Stealth teammate Paul Rabil. Hartzell was named the playoff MVP, the first defenseman to earn the honor in the league’s ten-year history.
“I felt like I played well, but I didn’t expect to get the MVP award,” he says. “Our goalie, Chris Garrity, was phenomenal all weekend, I thought he deserved it. But it was a pretty cool feeling.”
Even with four championships at various levels under his belt now, Hartzell is not satisfied. Champions rarely are. He’s back to work, getting ready for the Stealth season to start in less than a month. He and Rabil, who lives nearby back in Maryland, have been working out in preparation for training camp with one of the nation’s top athletic trainers in Jay Dyer. And having been in touch with his Stealth teammates throughout the offseason, Hartzell has found he’s not the only one gearing up for the Stealth’s title defense.
“I can’t wait to get to training camp, we are going to have one hell of a roster,” he says. “The championship kept everyone motivated in the offseason. Everyone I talk to is ready to get out there and defend our championship.”
Hartzell is also looking to add a gold medal to his resume, trying out for the US National Indoor Lacrosse Team this fall in preparation for the 2011 World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic. The team is scheduled to be announced later this month.
In the meantime, he is giving back to the game, teaching America’s youth the sport that has given him so much. He, along with friends Josh Porcell and Terry Kimener, started a lacrosse instruction company called Rogue Lacrosse. What started as personal lacrosse lessons has blossomed into team camps and clinics, the group traveling to Virginia, Michigan, New York, Maryland and Texas to teach young lacrosse players the finer points of the game.
Hartzell spent the 2010 Stealth season coaching the Skyline High School lacrosse team here in Washington. Coming from the Baltimore area, a hotbed for field lacrosse, and traveling around the country with Rogue Lacrosse, Hartzell has seen the potential for lacrosse in the state of Washington.
“The kids play hard and truly love the game,” he says of his experience with Skyline. “It’s awesome to see the game grow and to see the effort the community has put into it. Soon enough it will be as big as it is on the East coast.”
The Stealth begins training camp in December, with the 2011 campaign set to begin in January. Hartzell seeks out his fifth championship as the Stealth look to be the first team to repeat as NLL Champions since the Toronto Rock did so in 2002 and 2003.
“There’s a sense of urgency among the guys to get back to camp and get ready. We aren’t going to sneak up on anyone this year. The target will be on our back every game.”
Hartzell is prepared to take his game to the next level: champions are always ready.
What is your favorite part about road trips with your Stealth teammates?
Hartzell: Being with the team and battling on the road.
What is your pre-game routine?
Hartzell: crush 5 hour energy with Manney, I have to find a new 5 hour buddy!
If you weren't a lacrosse player or coach, what would be your job?
Hartzell: I'd be in the military, I've always wanted to tryout for the Seal Teams
If there was a movie made about your life, what would the title be and what actor would play you?
Hartzell: Terminator, Eric Martin
What Stealth teammate would you consider to be the best dancer?
Hartzell: Mike Grimes, He has some real slick moves that always get's the ladies
Who would you take on your dream date and what would you do?
Hartzell: Sloan from entourage, marry her.
What was your costume on Halloween? What was the best costume you saw?
Hartzell: I was an 80's volleyball player. The best costume I saw was Anthony Kelly dressed exactly like Macho Man Randy Savage
What sports teams do you root for?
Hartzell: The Ravens, and The Capitals Ovi Ovi Ovi!
What's playing on your iPod right now?
Hartzell: Drake Feat. Lil Wayne Right Above it
What TV show are you ashamed to admit you watch?
Hartzell: The Jersey Shore