Ronnie Fernando is a California product who happens to be a huge lacrosse player. Mr. Fernanando holds the distinction of having a title most lacrosse people have never heard of, hockey fans have a few stories about Emergency Goalies, coming in to play. Also, in some cases, stealing a win or, at least, holding the fort.
Kevin M. Neibauer recently caught up with Ronnie Fernando so, let’s go!
One on One with Ronnie Fernando.
KMN-As a California guy, how did you discover lacrosse?
RF: I was first introduced to lacrosse when I was in 7th grade. My friends had all been playing for about a year and that’s when my mom bought me my first stick. It was a used STX Excalibur from Play It Again sports! I want to say this was in 2001? My friends and I would throw around and shoot at the community park. That’s when I decided I wanted to pursue playing on my middle school team.
The summer before, I played in a summer rec. league called South Swell which I believe is what turned into Adrenaline Lacrosse later on, but I officially participated in my first season in 8th grade at Serrano Intermediate School in Lake Forest, CA.
I played as a first-year goalie and made it all the way to the championship where we lost by 1. That summer I was invited to play for the California U-15 Team that played in the youth festival at UMASS. It was an awesome experience as a first-year ever playing!
KMN– One of your teams went 22-0 and you were Championship game MVP, talk about that.
RF: Yes! Senior year of High School, 2006, El Toro High School! we had a great squad that year! Some guys went to play on some good MCLA teams and even went on to the LXM Pro Tour. But it was a great season, part of the success was a great defense in front of me. I think going back and recalling some old stats on Lax Power. We collectively as a team defense only allowed an average of 3 goals per game. That held true in the championship game where we beat a good Oak Park team 6-1. A rainy and muddy day where I had 16 saves. I still have the game ball in storage at my parent’s house!
Emergency Backup Goalie
KMN- Emergency Back-Up Goalie in MLL. You suited up for Chesapeake and the Boston Cannons on the same day. Talk about that day.
RF: I guess you can say it was a day I had worked for due to some unfortunate injuries. Two very good players in Phipps and Morocco. I was able to suit up and at least be one call away from being able to showcase what I have to offer as a goalie in the league.
I had worked very hard to prep for the season. So knowing that I was not going to be able to showcase my skills for a club at camp, I was afforded the opportunity to join the bubble as the league EBUG. I kept to the grindstone and was able to join the Bayhawks at camp and train in the bubble in case my name was called. When Brian had to sit out due to an injury, I was prepared and very excited to be called up and suit the next day for the Bayhawks.
That day stepping on that field for the first time dawning that Bayhawks Uniform was something I know I worked hard for, no matter the capacity and that there were people there such as coach Mariano who believed in me and the value I added to the roster in case I was called upon.
To be trusted like that means a lot coming from such a great coach and mentor like him. At least dressing for the Bayhawks was premeditated and I was mentally prepped, but that changed in an instant. I had just returned to the team hotel for dinner. As I was biting into the burrito from the team meals I received a call from Colin Keane with the league. He told me they needed me right away. Luckily the stadium was a 3-minute drive from the hotel. I still had my gear with me ready to go!
I sped back and suited up in Cannons red, white, and blue, and the rest was history. Again, I think It takes a lot of trust from Coach Quirk and Mariano for entrusting me in the backup role in case it came down to it. It was definitely quite a day to share the field with not just one group of talented players, teammates, and friends, but two teams. and I thank them all for the experience and for having me out.
KMN– You had open tryouts with several teams, how does one get invited to such a thing?
RF-Great question- at the end of my college career, my now fiance and I, moved east to Annapolis. When I was out there working at Lacrosse Unlimited, I was introduced to Spencer Ford. I would string up sticks for him and his boys. He became a mentor. He told me “in order to find a way and be successful, I had to act as my own agent.” Find every GM and coach’s phone numbers and emails and advocate for myself.
So I did that, I emailed every coach to introduce myself. The teams that held open tryouts. They did so for anyone willing to come to try out. At least this time the coaches knew my name, who I was, and what I was all about. I tried out for the Bayhawks, the Cannons, and the Machine, all of which told me I had impressed them but at the time were not looking to pick up another goalie. Coach Davis of the Machine told me the same thing. However, he also told me that though they were not looking to bring one in that they wanted to bring me into camp for a look. Though Initially I was released after camp, about halfway through the season coach Davis brought me back. I returned to the practice squad where I helped out and contributed through the rest of the 2017 season.
After that, I was relentless in talking with coaches. I built great relationships with them, allowing me some of the opportunities I had over the years with other teams.
Ronnie Keeps Coming Back
KMN– On more than one occasion you have stepped away from the game, what keeps bringing you back?
RF– Simple. The love of the game. It’s medicine to me. It allows me to re-energize, center myself, and be in the moment. It reminds me of the gifts that we do have. Lacrosse has given so much to me, and it allows me to give back to others that need the same opportunities.
KMN– Do you see yourself playing PLL?
RF: Simple answer, Yes. The longer answer, I still have a lot to prove and hope that there is a coach out there willing to give me a chance to prove just that at camp. I have accomplished a lot over my career and what I have been able to do from NCAA d2 to Club at the MCLA, as well as proving what I have already with MLL coaches and players.
All I need is someone to see the value in me, and once they do- I know I can continue to turn heads. You hear a lot of stories about underdogs, but there is no more true than I, I believe I am a true underdog, but the underdog that can and WILL show out over the favorites if given the chance. I have played with the players in the PLL when they were in the MLL, train with PLL guys, and am confident in my skill level to prove it!
KMN– You recently started playing box. Are you a goaltender in that as well?
RF: Nope. I play defense and help with the transition. I played enough goalie in the field, and with all due respect to the tendys that pad up in Box, I think my athleticism and skillsets are best highlighted on the floor.
KMN– Mike Cooper and the Bats, a very stacked roster, how did you come across them?
RF: To be honest I have no idea. I think there was a tournament here in Annapolis, MD where I live. I knew the Bats were playing and I shot them a DM on Instagram. My fiance is from just outside of Rochester so I had to reach out. I had played some box when I lived in California and wanted to play more competitively. I’m glad I reached out because a few weeks after he reached out asking if I wanted to play and was serious about the switch. and the rest is history.
The Bats like you said run a very solid team and it is great to now be a part of that team. They helped me feel welcomed and embraced my transition to the box. I thought I would have a learning curve and hold the team back but I went in confident to our first tournament and felt natural on the floor. when you have guys like Mike Cooper and company have your back and support you, it only lifts everyone to be better.
The Game of Lacrosse
KMN– Do you pattern yourself after any certain player?
RF: I don’t really have any particular player I pattern myself after, as a goalie on the field, I use to watch films of guys like Tillman Johnson, Adam Ghittlman, Schwartzman, and Daugherty. I never had a goalie coach till college and those guys were my coaches, all goalies were my coaches when watching the film. So I took what they did and found what best worked for me and continued to grow. I still continue to grow every day and refine my skills as a student of the game. It was a blessing to be able to play alongside guys like Ghits and Phipps, all great guys and players. As for Box, I never really thought of it as well. I attended every Anaheim Storm game in the 2000s back in S Cal, and loved every bit of it!
KMN– Tournaments, does the intensity level match anything you have experienced playing the game?
RF: I love the intensity, when I step on that field it is 180 degrees different from being in street clothes. I bring and match that intensity. It’s a dog eat dog, and I came to eat, not be eaten! I think you have to have that mentality on the floor, otherwise, you get stepped on! The guys that know me to know, know that when I flip that switch, an animal is uncaged, on the floor or on the field!
KMN– You have a tournament fast approaching… thoughts on that:
RF: Well I believe this tournament you referenced just passed. In my first tournament with the Bats, we lost by 1 in OT in the ship, but the one in reference- we won a great championship game going 5-0 to do it against some good teams. It’s all about moving fast, with confidence knowing you have 4 other guys on the floor and on the bench that have your back. and the Roc-bats are the Epitome of that. I deff think that I have a bright future ahead of me playing both box and field, I wish I had done it sooner.
I hope you enjoyed the One on One interview with Ronnie Fernando. For more lacrosse action click here.