Can Baptiste be the next Geoff Snider for the Philadelphia Wings?
The Wings’ inaugural season saw some head scratching with some of the selections made during the draft from the United States with little box experience compared to their box-dominant neighbours up in Canada. That trend has continued into this year with nearly every team in the league venturing into the American-born player market.
But last year, it was still a gamble. Taking guys with less experience over guys who play box regularly was concerning given that Philly was already an expansion team. And while the Wings of old saw guys like Jake Bergey and Kyle Sweeney transition successfully into the realm of box, they also had their share of guys who never quite panned out. The negative comments started flying before the draft ended and the biggest target was Trevor Baptiste – could he even play box?
The answer is yes, although it took some time for Baptiste to gel with the game and for the fans to gel with Baptiste.
Baptiste, whose college faceoff talent seemed comparable to Geoff Snider’s indoor faceoff abilities, was not immediately loved in Philly. Baptiste was able to stronghold an impressive number of balls. However, he was called a liability on the floor in the defensive end by fans and media members as players quickly ran by him. On the offensive end, Baptiste struggled with getting to the net and taking quality shots – let alone having those shots go in. The “faceoff get off” cry was often heard from the crowd.
When the 2019 season ended, Baptiste went to the Premier Lacrosse League where he continued to dominate the outdoor game, really making a name for himself in the lacrosse world as an up-and-coming star. Then he began his transition back to the indoor game. And transition he did. He came back quicker and with a year under his belt, more confident than last year. He is proving that he belongs in Philadelphia and that he can dominate the indoor game.
Head coach and general manager Paul Day and the rest of the coaching staff noticed when Baptiste showed up at camp.
“His biggest thing is fitness. . . The biggest thing in our exit minis was fitness. And his fitness [this year] is unbelievable. Like he runs away from people, fast people. His defense? He got that penalty late in the game because his defense is about 50 percent better than last year. And that’s key for us. We love TB,” Day said in a recent media scrum.
Through four games, Baptiste has a 75 per cent average at the dot, an improvement over his already wildly impressive 68 per cent from last season when he set the record for single-season wins. His play has helped Philadelphia to a strong 3-1 early season record and second place in the North Division.
In terms of what Day expects from Baptiste on offense?
“I honestly think he can [have a] goal a game. He can have 18-20 goals in this league. And the sky’s the limit for him. It just goes with the culture and the type of teammate he is.”
Baptiste has scored in three consecutive games and had two each of in the last two as he gets more comfortable with the ball in the offensive end.
And Day believes Baptiste is happy in Philadelphia, where he routinely participates in community functions with his local teammates.
“That’s why he’s here. I remember my first phone call with him in August of 2018. He just wanted to play box and he wanted to play in Philly,” Day said. “He’s just a fantastic guy.”
Baptiste doesn’t have Snider’s smooth goal-scoring talent, quick fists or steel chin, but he does have plenty to offer this team. Snider quickly rose to fan favourite status in Philly. Judging from the roar of the crowd and Baptiste’s 27-31 faceoff domination last Friday, it appears that Philly may have found another faceoff guy who is more than just a FOGO expert and is a fan favourite.