Locals Steer Baltimore Blast Toward Another Title
The Baltimore Blast will host Milwaukee Friday night in Game 1 of the MISL Championship series. The game begins at 7:35 p.m. at 1st Mariner Arena.
For Mike Lookingland, there are two givens this time of year.
First, the Fallston native will be pulling for Duke in the NCAA Tournament.
Second, and just as passionately, the Baltimore Blast's all-league defender will be hoping the Milwaukee Wave lose in the Major Indoor Soccer League playoffs.
“I don’t think I’ve ever hated anything more in my life than the Milwaukee Wave,” Lookingland said.
Lookingland and the Baltimore Blast (18-6) hosts Milwaukee (16-6) in Game 1 of the MISL Championship Series Friday night at 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore. Game 2 will be played at 4 p.m. Sunday in Milwaukee. If the teams are split, a 15-minute "mini-game" will be played to determine the champ.
Tickets are still available.
"There’s so much bad blood. Even the coaches don’t like each other," Lookingland said. "I don’t expect anybody to be friends after this weekend."
Lookingland, a Loyola-Blakefield alum with roots in Harford County, is in his first year as the Blast captain. He has grown up a great deal since his rookie season with the Blast in 2005-2006.
“To see him now as the captain of the team, and a local captain, it’s a good honor,” Blast defender Pat Healey said. “If you look at the captains over the years, it’s a great honor.”
Lookingland lives in Parkville with his fiancee and 7-month-old son, "Mikey III."
He’s also created a career for himself outside of the Blast—a day job of sorts fueled by his passion and knowledge of the game. Lookingland started a local Soccer Shots chapter, providing introductory soccer for daycares and pre-schools around the Baltimore metropolitan area—primarily in Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties.
“I’m in about 80 daycares and pre-schools running weekly soccer classes,” Lookingland said.
Ultimately, it’s spreading a brand that has helped fuel a series of championship teams with the Blast.
With a tight-knit soccer community in Baltimore, the Blast connections are everywhere.
Many of the players coach at local high school and club programs—Lookingland and Healey, for example, are coaching with the Baltimore Bays club team. Seven of the players on the team’s roster hail from homes in Maryland, including five from the Baltimore metro area.
“I love that we have three Loyola high school guys on one team. That’s awesome,” Lookingland said, referencing rookies Mike Deasel and Akira Fitzgerald. “We have guys from the Baltimore Bays club. Bringing guys straight through that system, the Blast really takes advantage of that.”
Many of them grew up watching the Blast.
Baltimore is seeking its sixth championship in the last decade, having won titles in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009. Many players from the most recent title team have gone, for a variety of reasons.
However, with the players who grew up around the team now serving as the franchise’s leadership, the Blast are in stable hands.
“There’s been a lot of turnover. There’s a couple of us left. I think that’s why we’ve done so well, especially recently,” Lookingland said. “The organization has seen a lot of guys come and go since I’ve been here, but being able to keep a good core every year, that definitely has kept some stability within the organization.”
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The local ties for the Blast go beyond just being from the area.
They live, eat, shop and spend time in the community. So I asked three of the locals where they like to spend their time.
WHERE DO THEY EAT?
- GK Akira Fitzgerald » "I’m a vegan, so my favorite restaurant is called Land of Kush on Howard Street."
- D Pat Healey » "I don’t get to go to it much, but my favorite spot is Maggianos. We try all the restaraunts. Enotria, Fortunatos. The whole family goes there. If not, it’s Outback or Della Rose’s."
- D Mike Lookingland » "Jimmy’s Famous Seafood. The best menu in Baltimore."
WHERE DO THEY SHOP?
- GK Akira Fitzgerald » "I shop at Trader Joe’s in Towson. It’s pretty good stuff. I love Trader Joe’s.
- D Pat Healey » "It’s a toss up between Weis and Giant. I normally go to Weis. If I need a few things, Giant is on the way, so I hit Giant."
- D Mike Lookingland » "I usually hit up the Super Target. Mostly because the baby formula is cheaper."
WHERE DO THEY GO OUT?
- GK Akira Fitzgerald » "Mostly if I go out with these guys to check out a movie, it’s to The Avenue. I usually go to Towson Town Mall—Pac Sun, H&M."
- D Pat Healey » "[Loews in] White Marsh. It’s the closest. It’s the best, but it is the closest. It is literally two minutes from my house."
- D Mike Lookingland » "I like The Avenue. At this point, when we do go out, we still stay close. Even night life purposes: we hit Della Rose’s, Tilted Kilt with Scott Buete."