Born in Baltimore, Anthony Ryan moved as a youngster with his family to New York. He returned to Charm City as a teenager in the 1970s and began playing lacrosse at Edmondson High School.

He has been a fixture in the Baltimore lacrosse community ever since.

Therefore, there was nobody who could have been a better catalyst in organizing last week’s celebration of Baltimore city lacrosse than Ryan, known affectionately as “Coach Merc” by just about everyone.

Hosted at US Lacrosse’s national headquarters in Sparks, the event featured a full-day of games, food, activities, and ceremonies that touched almost all levels of the game.

It was an idea that began as part of an informal conversation over a year ago between Ryan and Eboni Preston-Laurent, the senior manager for diversity at US Lacrosse. The planning and agenda grew from there, nurtured mostly by Ryan and his four-plus decades full of connections.

“He’s a pioneer in Baltimore city,” Preston-Laurent said.

Initially, the celebration was supposed to center around the boys’ high school game between Mervo and City, the team that Ryan has coached for the past 16 years. The two teams met in last year’s city championship game, and both were still undefeated heading into last week’s match-up. 

A conversation between Ryan and his life-long friend, Lloyd Carter, head coach at Hampton University, introduced additional elements to the itinerary. 

Ryan moved the high school game from the afternoon to the evening in order to add a college game between Hampton and Bethany College at 3 p.m. 

With field time available in the morning, it seemed only logical to Ryan to start the day with youth club games on US Lacrosse’s Tierney Field. As co-founder of Blax Lax, a nonprofit club that has been providing lacrosse opportunities to city youth since 2003, his contacts were only a phone call away.

The youth line-up included Baltimore Terps Lacrosse, Charm City Youth Lacrosse, Commodore John Rogers Middle School, and Warhorse Lacrosse, an invited outsider from Philadelphia. Games began at 10 a.m.

Tours of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Museum at US Lacrosse provided further insight into the history of the game, connecting today’s youth with lacrosse’s roots.

“It all just fell into place,” Ryan said. “The kids were the stars of the day. They ate it up and many were there from the first to the last whistle. This will be forever displayed in their memories.”

Two additional components were also included as part of the day’s agenda.

Ryan knew that a celebration of Baltimore lacrosse would be incomplete without recognition of Morgan State University’s varsity program from the 1970s, the first college lacrosse team at a Historically Black College & University. 

Although Morgan State discontinued the lacrosse program following the 1981 season due to financial challenges, Ryan, who was a member of the team, understands their lasting impact.

“Almost everybody who plays lacrosse in Baltimore can trace a connection back to Morgan State,” he said. “We’re all so closely connected.”

Ryan worked with Brian Beverly, the unofficial alumni coordinator for Morgan State lacrosse, to gather as many former players as possible. They were recognized on Tierney Field and each player received a medallion with the inscription “10 Bears for Life.”  

“It was an honor to have them there as part of the day,” Ryan said.

One other recognition, albeit a sad one, was also necessary. 

The initial discussions in 2018 between Ryan and USL’s Preston-Laurent had been precipitated by the desire to honor the memory of a City player, Ray Glasgow, who was a victim of Baltimore’s gun violence epidemic. Ryan also had another player, Blax Lax alum Devin Cook, who had lost his life to gun violence. 

Incorporating recognition of these two young men and showing support for their families became a central part of the day’s itinerary. US Lacrosse provided both families with tribute plaques in memory of the players. A commemorative brick for each young man has been added to USL’s Henry A. Rosenberg, Jr. Promenade. 

“Their parents and all that were there to see had hearts so full with emotion from the professionalism, love and support given to our lost boys,” Ryan said. 

At the end of a full day, the icing on the cake for Ryan was seeing his City team celebrate a 9-8 overtime win over Mervo that now advances his squad into next week’s city championship game against Poly.

 



“Our O.T. win brought the house down,” Ryan said. “Our high school teams never get the opportunity to play at such a magnificent arena, and be in front of that type of audience. I was so proud and fortunate to have them witness and play under such fanfare and excitement.”

The day of celebration, incorporating many moving parts, has received glowing reviews.

"There was not one flaw through the entire day," Ryan said. "It turned our better than I ever thought it could."

Preston-Laurent was pleased that US Lacrosse could contribute to a memorable day for Baltimore’s lacrosse community. She notes that Ryan’s dedication to the city’s youth players is inspirational.

“He does so many little things for young people that most folks never see or hear about, without ever trying to draw attention to himself,” she said. “It was a pleasure for us to be able to support Merc in making this a special day.”