No, not that Brady Bunch, but a group of high school lacrosse players in western states, including ours, who come together during the year to play lacrosse and raise money for 3-year-old Brady Wein. Brady is the son of Phoenix lacrosse coach Mike Wein and his wife Rachel, who was diagnosed at the age of 3 months with leukemia, a disease that attacks the blood cells and until recently was nearly always a fatal diagnosis.
Local players Mitch Flaherty of Amador Valley High School, Gabe Garcia and Shane O'Neil of Foothill and Eric McCosker of De La Salle heard of the effort and signed up to play, traveling mostly during the hot summer months to compete in Brady Bunch tournaments in different parts of the country.
Mike Wein, a Massachusetts native and avid Boston Pro Sports fan, moved to the Phoenix area 13 years ago. He has been a fixture on the national collegiate lacrosse recruiting scene for the better part of the last decade as part of Scott Hochstadt's West Coast Starz organization. When word got to Hochstadt about Brady's condition the call for help went right out. The medical treatment for Brady is not fully covered by Wein's insurance, and Rachel Wein has been unable to return to work since Brady was diagnosed as she has been by her son's side much of the time.
In answering the call, Flaherty, Garcia, O'Neill and McCosker, who already had their own lacrosse equipment, purchased Brady Bunch team uniforms and paid their own expenses to compete. Those meets added to their high school varsity experience with games gaining national attention under the Starz flag. Scouts came looking. While it's not unusual for Tri-Valley star high school football, baseball, basketball and soccer players to win scholarships and early admissions to major colleges, lacrosse has less recognition here in the West. It's still largely an East Coast sport where Division 1 colleges can fill a stadium. No colleges west of the Mississippi are in Division 1, although more schools are working their way into Division 2 status, including Mesa State.
Players, including Flaherty, had offers from Division 1 schools, but preferred to be closer to home and in less expensive surroundings. Besides, Mesa State plays other Division 2 schools in the Bay Area, including Dominican University in San Rafael and Notre Dame College in Belmont, which means the four will be back for games several times during the season on Mesa State's ticket to see their families in the stands and probably with chances to take advantage of a few home-cooked meals.
Flaherty's dad Mark Flaherty moved to Pleasanton from the East Coast. Always an enthusiastic lacrosse spectator, he was glad to see Amador Valley launch its lacrosse girls and boys teams a few years ago. Most Tri-Valley high schools today field varsity lacrosse teams and local city lacrosse clubs are as competitive as youth soccer and football organizations. Flaherty's daughter, Lynnea, plays on Amador's girls freshman lacrosse team. With UC Berkeley recently canceling its girls lacrosse program, colleges such as Mesa State may see their teams attracting ever-better players.
Garcia, a star lacrosse player at Foothill, started playing the sport in fifth grade when lacrosse was still new in Pleasanton. He's played on club teams and all four years at Foothill, in addition to the more intense competition at Brady Bunch tournaments. O'Neil plays defense, also at Foothill. He finds lacrosse a fast-moving, highly competitive sport but more relaxed because, unlike football, there's no physical contact. He says players can enjoy the game without worrying about getting bashed on the field and sustaining possible injuries. As a sports medicine major at Mesa State, he may have a chance to work on some of those battered football players.
McCosker, 18, the De La Salle senior, knows the other three as opponents in frequent games his school has with Amador Valley and Foothill. They've become friends off the field as well and as teammates during Brady Bunch games. Even though they'll be on the same team at Mesa State, where McCosker plans to study construction management, he'll put his lacrosse skills to the test when De La Salle meets the two Pleasanton schools this spring in his final match as a high school senior.