Philly Charity Showdown Preview: Mesa Fresh’s Michael O’Grady Takes Long Road to Success
Oct 14, 2014
Michael O'Grady never imagined he'd still be playing for Mesa Fresh these days. To some, it's a little crazy that he's really ever played for the team, considering it's about a six-hour drive from his school.
O'Grady, a 2017 LSM/defenseman, is from Boston and attends The Roxbury Latin School. Mesa Fresh, one of the Philadelphia area's and country's top clubs is, well, not exactly near Boston. So how did O'Grady wind up playing for Mesa, especially with a bevy of the country's top clubs significantly closer to Boston available?
"My dad lived in Philly and went to The Haverford School," O'Grady said. "He then went to Boston College and settled down around here, but I've always been going to Philly in the summer to hang out and connect with my family, which I don't get to do a lot during the school year. When summer lacrosse started in the fifth grade, my uncle Paul (a former Philadelphia Wing and the current Haverford defensive coordinator) asked me if I wanted to play for Philly Fever, so I did, and little did I know I'd still be playing for them today."
O'Grady will have a chance to see his family and play with his Mesa teammates on Friday, Nov. 14 in the Philly Charity Showdown at Citizens Bank Park. Mesa will take on HEADstrong in the nightcap of a slate that also includes a seventh grade Pennsylvania vs. New Jersey all-star game, an eighth grade Pennsylvania vs. New Jersey all-star game, Episcopal Academy vs. St. Augustine Prep, LB3 Atlanta vs. Freedom Lacrosse and NXT LC vs. Laxachusetts. All net proceeds from the fifth annual Charity Showdown will be donated to the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in support of its Comprehensive Concussion Center. Purchase your Charity Showdown tickets here.
"The game at CBP is the start of a really big weekend for me," said O'Grady, who will also play in the Philly Showcase and Philly Fall Invitational. "The thing that makes me the most excited about the Charity Showdown is the charity itself. Raising money like that and trying to help others is great and for NXT to do that is really cool. It's going to be a great experience playing where Ryan Howard and Chase Utley play, too."
When O'Grady is trying to put the clamps on opposing teams' top scoring threats, it'll also be a reminder of just how much his lacrosse game has changed by playing for Mesa for all of those Philly-bound summers. He initially tried out for midfielder, but after seeing the glut of skilled midfielders that tried out, the coaches thought he'd be a natural with a long pole in his hands. He's taken to it like a duck to water, and on the flip side, the Mesa group has taken to him well, too. It's that type of loyalty that makes those summers away from home easier for him.
"One of the things I love about Mesa is that it's one team for years," O'Grady said. "Nothing has changed since the fall of last year. At first, people were thinking, 'he's coming down from Boston just to play with us? This guy's a little crazy.' But they've been very welcoming. I just had a couple of my teammates come up to Boston to visit schools and I actually hosted them and showed them around Boston. Boston is a great source for talent and some of my high school teammates are going to the event, too, but after playing for years with guys like Chris Hervada, Billy Coyle and Johnny Nostrant, it's hard to let go of that."
It also helped to have somebody he was familiar with in the Mesa program. O'Grady's cousin, Luke O'Grady (a 2018 attackman), helped Michael overcome any potential early awkwardness and lack of familiarity. None of that is still around, though.
"Since fifth grade, I've played with Luke and he was always the link between the guys I hang out with in Philly," O'Grady said. "As time went on, it became very easy for me to go down to Philly without any issue and I can even hang out with friends down there without him if I want to. Coaches John Nostrant, Billy Holmes and Chris Aitken and Mesa Fresh Director Bob Aitken have also been great to me and so helpful with the challenges that I have from being out of town. My family also does so much for me and I'm so thankful for what they've sacrificed on my behalf."
And while some of his teammates might be wide-eyed at the prospect of playing in a massive stadium like the home of the Phillies, he's almost used to it at this point and plans on leaving his mark.
"I actually played for NESLL at Gillette Stadium in seventh grade," O'Grady said. "My dad told me to make a statement and wear shorts even though it was cold, so I did. I'm probably going to be rocking shorts at CBP, too."
Seems like he's used to being a bit different than everyone already, so why not?
Check out Michael O'Grady's highlight reel here. Purchase your Philly Charity Showdown tickets here. Find out more about NXT's partnership with Thomas Jefferson University Hospital for the 2014 Philly Charity Showdown.