One more week and it will be time to get the field-turf out again for the Baltimore Mariners at the 1st Mariner Arena as the AIFA’s (American Indoor Football Association) season kicks off on March 6. Before the Mariners (a favorite to win the AIFA Bowl IV) take the field next Saturday on the road at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex against the Harrisburg Stampede, they will meet the media and the public for the first time this year for Media Day on Sunday, February 28 at the University of Maryland Indoor Practice Bubble.
On Sunday, the doors will be open for all to see the 9-5 Mariners’ team of 2009, who advanced to the post-season for the first time in their brief three-year history. The Practice Bubble is located on the University of Maryland’s campus on University Boulevard across from the school’s Golf Club.
On Media Day from 9:00 to 9:45 am, the Mariner’s players will be active in stretching and agility drills. At 9:45 to 11:00 am, a ‘controlled’ scrimmage among the players in the Blue and White Scrimmage will be held. Finally, the staff, coaches and players will be available from 11:00 to 11:30 am on the field be interviewed by the media.
The Mariners’ organization has been extremely active this off season to keep the pillars of the team together to make a strong run towards the league’s title game. To keep a solid national presence as the AIFA continues to grow, this 13-team league was arranged into two conferences this season, the East and West Conferences. The AIFA alternates where the championship game will be played at, according to the conferences. Since the title game was held on the west coast last season in Wyoming (home of the defending champs the Wyoming Calvary), the East conference champions will host the championship game this year. The Mariners chances are great because 18 of the 20 players from last season’s playoff team returned and last year, they won 6 out of their 7 home games. This scenario of having the Bowl game on the east coast has Mariners’ general manager Greg Justice licking his chops. “With the East vs. West alignment, the championship game will be held in the East in 2010,” said Justice. “The mission is simple. Take care of business, get to the post season and bring that championship game to Baltimore. If all gone as planned, 1st Mariner Arena could be rocking in July as we set sail for the ring.”
With 40 men in training camp, you could imagine the fight and competition among the players in hopes to fill the vacant 20-man active roster with eight to ten players, eventually, joining the practice squad. To make things more competitive in a loaded secondary that led the league in interceptions (42) and finished second in takeaways (52), the Mariners signed three more defensive backs to the roster – two are indoor football veterans. Veteran defensive backs Jermaine Thaxton and Desmond Maul and Nikkieda Rutland. Thaxton was an All-Pro last season as a Stampede and Maul earned his stripes in the af2 (Arena Football 2) and in the AIFA, despite taking last season off.
Everything will come into full circle for the Mariners this weekend before Media Day this Sunday. After that, it will be time to bunker down and “set sail for the ring”.