That’s Rusty Brown, general manager of Seattle’s first professional ultimate team, the Rainmakers. And he’s talking about the exodus of players he faces this year, as the team enters its second season.
Let’s back up. Ultimate pits two seven-player teams in a battle to advance a disc toward the end zones of a 120-yard field. And the Rainmakers are part of Major League Ultimate, a pro league with eight teams along the East and West Coasts. (“Frisbee” is trademarked, so they can’t use it in their name.) Their second season kicks off this April at Renton Memorial Stadium.
The league and the Rainmakers started strong. MLU highlights broke into SportsCenter’s Top Ten Plays of the Day eight times last year, and games broadcast in Philadelphia approached the viewership of the local Major League Soccer team. The Rainmakers were 8-2 and advanced to the semifinals in the playoffs. They already have 7,000 Facebook fans, and the whole enterprise—from the team logo to the replica jerseys from Puma—has a remarkably professional sheen. Especially given that players make just $25 a game.
Which brings us back to Brown’s disappointment. Seattle is also home to the Sockeye, an amateur club team on which many Rainmakers also play. But as it happens, the World Ultimate Club Championship—which only takes place every four years—is this summer. And the Sockeye earned a bid to play in it. And it’s in Italy. So Brown’s losing half of his starters. He’s thankful for the part they played in the Rainmakers’ success last year but laments that he’ll “probably lose ticket sales because of those names who will not return this year.”
Oh, and then there’s the other pro ultimate team from the rival American Ultimate Disc League, the Seattle Raptors, that starts play this spring. Intimidating obstacles for a team still in its infancy, but as Brown points out, Washington has the 10th most members in the sport’s national governing body. So if it can work anywhere, maybe it’ll work in Seattle.