Connor Fields was 6 when he received commenced. His brother, Peter, who was 9 at the time, was enjoying box lacrosse in a league in Fort Erie. Their dad, Peter, drove in excess of the border two or a few instances a week, and little Connor would tag alongside.
The president of the league advised Connor’s dad and mom that given that he was coming to all the games, he may well as properly participate in, way too. Which is all the child required to listen to.
“He was a few many years more mature, so I appeared up to him a large amount,” Fields claimed. “I was like ‘If he’s enjoying, that’s what I want to do’. That is how I got into it.”
He was hooked, portion of a technology of Western New York children who grew up idolizing the Bandits and their superstar, John Tavares. Connor was a pure. He used several hours taking part in out in the family’s backyard in East Amherst, imagining a time when he may possibly get to perform ahead of a total home in the Arena.
“That was my aspiration,” Fields said I wished to do all the things I could to make that happen. The best I could do at the time was pretend to be a Bandit in the yard, pretending to be John Tavares and executing some of the stuff you’d do in the match.”
Fields grew up to be a person of the most effective lacrosse gamers at any time to arrive out of Western New York. He was the area’s best high college participant at Bishop Timon-St. Jude and an all-American at the University of Albany who left college as the next-major scorer in Division I background and went on to a profession in the professionals.
20 yrs later, Fields lastly understood that minimal boy’s dream. Last August, the Bandits acquired him from San Diego in a draft-day trade. At 26, he’s owning the best yr of his Nationwide Lacrosse League career for his hometown team — oh, and with his boyhood hero, Taveras, as the team’s head coach.
Heading into Saturday’s common-season finale at KeyBank Heart, Fields is third on the workforce in scoring with 32 goals and 67 details. He’s had a breakthrough period for a Bandits staff that qualified prospects the NLL with a 14-3 file and will delight in property-discipline edge through the playoffs, which begin future 7 days.
Fields, who was a 12-12 months-aged cheering from the stands when the Bandits gained their last NLL championship at the Arena in 2008, has a chance to be portion of a lengthy-awaited fifth league title. It’s an thrilling time in Banditland.
“I think we’re all genuinely fired up,” Fields mentioned Thursday in the Bandits dressing place in the Arena. “Being from Buffalo, I grew up heading to all these video games and the playoff game titles. So I know the Banditland environment really well.
“The supporters are excellent in the typical time, way too,” he stated. “But come playoffs, they’re likely to be a huge raise for us and with any luck , give us the excess edge we will need to be thriving in the playoffs.”
Successful an NLL title would be a storybook ending to Fields’ time. It has been a extensive and at moments unpleasant ride, a single that observed him eliminate most of his rookie NLL season immediately after knee operation and skip an indoor time when the NLL canceled the 2021 marketing campaign owing to the pandemic.
Fields played his freshman yr at Williamsville North, actively playing 1 calendar year together with his brother. But he transferred to Timon halfway via his sophomore season.
“It was hard,” he recalled. “Obviously, increasing up you have your close friends. I didn’t know any person at Timon. But at the time, it was the best selection for me, and I really don’t regret it at all. I adore Timon.”
As a senior, Fields was the top participant in the Buffalo area and rated as the 15th-best prospect in the total country. He also performed box lacrosse in Canada in the course of the wintertime months, being genuine to his indoor roots.
At Albany, he was a four-time all-American, finishing with 199 ambitions and 364 details in his job. In 2017, he experienced 117 points, the fifth-most in a period in NCAA background. But as a senior, he performed on a knee that he’d 1st hurt as a junior. By the next fifty percent of the 2018 period, he was playing with a torn ACL, a sprained MCL and an hurt meniscus.
It was all around that time that he commenced courting Lara Podvin, who performed for the Albany women’s lacrosse workforce. The romance clicked and they’re engaged to be married future New Year’s Eve at the Sterling on the grounds of the Arrowhead Golf Club in Clarence.
“The boys and the girls’ staff constantly hung out,” she said, “so we were like a little lacrosse spouse and children. It was simple to cross paths at the time I got there.”
Podvin knew her boyfriend was playing hurt. But she realized far better than to suggest that he perhaps acquire some time off from lacrosse.
“Telling Connor not to participate in lacrosse is, like, difficult,” Podvin stated with a laugh. “That hardly ever crossed our minds. I was new to him and the connection, but I also understood that lacrosse was his everyday living. So, I allow his relatives have the really serious discussions with him. I was there for aid.
“It was almost certainly a person of the hardest factors he at any time experienced to go via,” she explained. “But when he was playing, he was honestly joyful. He was ready to play as a result of it. When it would give out, which is when it would strike him hard. I connect with him a robotic. I’d say, ‘You’re a robot for remaining able to do that’.”
Inspite of the ruined knee, the Robotic led Albany to its ideal time ever, reaching the quarterfinals of the NCAA championships. Fields was sixth in the state in points that year.
But he paid out for it afterwards. Following college, Fields was drafted third total by Charlotte in the Key Lacrosse League draft. He performed a pair of games in the outside year but experienced to shut it down simply because of the knee. On Aug. 1, 2018, he had knee surgical treatment with Leslie Bisson, the Amherst orthopedic sporting activities specialist.
That September, Fields was taken 10th all round in the NLL draft by the San Diego Seals. The Bandits had the 3rd and fourth all round picks and took Matt Gilray and Ian MacKay. If he hadn’t hurt his knee, who understands, perhaps he goes to Buffalo then.
“They acquired two excellent picks at the time,” he stated. “I do not know how it would have performed out. Arrive draft working day, you are psyched to go any place you are drafted to participate in, but inside of I was really hoping for Buffalo. But it finished up doing work out.”
Fields experienced taken a cortisone shot ahead of the NCAA match. He discovered out later on that he wanted to wait three months for operation, which took him into August. The recovery time prevented him from being all set for the NLL period in 2019. He played only three video games for San Diego, one in the playoffs.
In 2020, Fields played 12 games for San Diego, finishing with 18 objectives and 44 details. Then the 2021 NLL period was wiped out because of to the pandemic. Fields played outdoor previous summer months for the Archers of the Leading League. Then arrived the trade to his hometown Bandits in August.
Tavares couldn’t remember what the Bandits traded for Fields. They obtained him from San Diego for the 13th all round pick and a 2nd-round selection in the 2022 NLL Entry Draft.
“I experienced nothing at all to do with the trade,” Tavares claimed from Ontario, the place he however will work as a math trainer. “I just reported, ‘OK, do it.’ Steve Dietrich (the Bandits’ normal manager) was accountable for that trade, and it turned out to be a really, very very good trade for our facet. Connor required to occur back again at engage in at residence.”
“So, we took a chance on him,” Tavares explained, “and male, he’s genuinely developed for us! I would say he’s certainly gone further than expectation, what he’s offered to our workforce offensively. I would have been happy with 15 aims.”
Fields scored four plans in each and every of his to start with two online games for Buffalo. He has been remarkably reliable, scoring at the very least one particular objective in 11 straight game titles heading into Saturday night time. He experienced assists in 8 of his final 9 games.
“I consider I’m however developing as a player,” stated Fields. “With just about every sport, I’m having better, acquiring extra relaxed out there, just obtaining utilized to the pace of engage in and becoming in distinctive predicaments.
“I’m taking part in with new fellas, making chemistry,” he claimed. “You usually play with terrific players, but the fellas in this locker area are unbelievable gamers. You might not be open up, but they nevertheless find a way to get you the ball. It’s a very unselfish workforce, a quite gifted crew, also. You enjoy better when you are getting enjoyment. I have not experienced this much enjoyment enjoying lacrosse because the school times.”
Tavares explained Fields is acquiring smarter as a player. He claimed the same issues about Dhane Smith, the NLL’s top rated scorer. “There’s not a lot of set plays for him, but he finds a way to make,” Tavares reported.
Fields is 5-11, 160 kilos, while the website lists him as more substantial. His slight build was very likely one particular of the good reasons he did not go greater in the draft. But he says getting compact can be an gain, allowing you to insinuate by yourself into better scoring probabilities and applying defenders’ sizing in opposition to them.
“The video game slows down a great deal as you get made use of to the rate,” Fields explained (Smith claimed the very same point). You are seeing things a good deal slower and getting equipped to see the larger image, the comprehensive industry. I imagine it separates the superior from the great players. It’s anything I’m continuing to work on.”
At 26, with the injuries and the pandemic guiding him, Fields is in his absolute prime as a lacrosse participant. He’s balanced, delighted and effective. He and Lara, who both equally get the job done in pharmaceutical sales, will be married at the get started of the New Yr.
This yr couldn’t get a lot greater for Fields. Unless, of program, the Bandits earn that elusive NLL title in his very first calendar year as a professional in Buffalo.
“Yeah, it would be a aspiration appear true,” he said. “I was there for the last time they received it. I grew up in my backyard, pretending I was a Bandit. Now I perform for them. If we earn the championship, I don’t consider I’ll have phrases to explain it.”
Jerry Sullivan is an award-successful journalist who joined the News 4 team in 2020 just after 3 a long time as a sporting activities columnist at The Buffalo News. See far more of his work listed here.