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December 1, 2010

Blog: Goettelmann's a Big Guy with Bigger Heart

McLaughlin: Tim Goettelmann's a Big Guy with a Bigger Heart

by Corey McLaughlin | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

LM Person of the Year Tim Goettelmann poses outside the children's hospital on Long Island he visits regularly and fundraises for through Monster's Kids.

© John Mecionis

Before I got to know Tim Goettelmann -- "Who?" you may ask. I said the same thing -- I asked people to describe him and they all had good things to say: He's genuine, sincere, a great teammate, great guy.

"Anything for Tim," Long Island Lizards coach Jim Mule said by phone one day when I asked for a few minutes to talk about the 6-foot-4, 230-pound veteran professional attackman affectionately nicknamed The Monster. "People say those adjectives about a lot of guys, but he's really about it. When you say he cares, double it."

I found first-hand evidence to support that fact over the course of generous phone and e-mail exchanges and a few in-person interviews during Major League Lacrosse championship weekend. Then it really hit me over the head how much it was the right decision to name Tim Goettelmann Lacrosse Magazine's Person of the Year once I informed him he was the person.

He did care. Triple it.

We sat next to each other in a booth near the back of Louie's Manhasset Restaurant on Plandome Road in the affluent Long Island town where Goettelmann (pronounced 'GET-ul-mun') was raised. Lizards general manager Casey Hilpert sat across the table.

I broke the news after we finished eating lunch and talking about his lacrosse career and the next event for Monster's Kids. That's his charitable foundation that benefits sick and injured children at Cohen Children's Hospital in nearby New Hyde Park.

Upon comprehending what I said, he awkwardly sideways hugged me in the small restaurant booth as only a man nicknamed Monster can. Later, on the sidewalk outside, he gave me a big bear hug as we prepared to depart. He couldn't believe it, really. That he was a Person of the Year and would be on the cover of the magazine.

"Man, you're my brother now," Goettelmann said.

He was happy for the honor but also, I'm sure, for the exposure it could give Monster's Kids, his homegrown, basically one-man operation he created in 2009. The reason, he said, was he just realized how lucky he was to have two healthy children with his wife Lisa. "I owe you a big Christmas present," he yelled down the street as he walked away.

We had just spent the morning at the children's hospital, where Goettelmann has focused Monster's Kids' fundraising efforts. In two years he's raised about $150,000 through grassroots events, the latest of which is his organization of the first Woodstick Alumni Classic in April. He hopes to raise $75,000 for a new hospital play room.

And he's also donated his time, making regular visits to make a personal connection with kids he doesn't know, while balancing commitments to a wife and two young daughters and his day job as a wholesale insurance broker in Manhattan. He's not an athlete showing up for a photo op. He was going to the hospital before Lacrosse Magazine showed up.

"He's our cover story," Randee Bloch, the hospital's director of development, said in the lobby as Goettelmann played with some kids. "That's for sure."

On the day I visited with Tim, he wore his green No. 9 Lizards jersey and posed with children for magazine photos. He attempted to teach them how to cradle with a stick and a ball that he brought from home. He said things like, "Everybody has a butt, right? This is the butt of a stick." He handed out white No. 9 Lizards shirts to everyone he saw. Then, unexpectedly, he said we were going upstairs to visit a room or two.

We entered a bland, typical hospital room, and Goettelmann spiced it up immediately. Copies of Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine rested on the sliding bed table of the first boy we visited. Goettelmann pointed this out for all to hear as we walked in. Sports fan, huh?

The boy, unknowingly to Goettelmann, was a youth lacrosse teammate of Mule's son. They talked lacrosse for a few minutes. Goettelmann didn't know what was wrong with the boy as he lay in a hospital bed, and didn't ask. But he said to contact him or Hilpert if he needed any help. I stood out of the way behind them. The boy's mother cried and the father, as we left the room, said to his son, "You know that's the all-time leading scorer, right?"

Goettelmann, who in his senior season at Loyola in 2000 was an All-American and scored a school-record 50 goals, is that: MLL's all-time scoring leader with 251 career goals. It happened this summer in his 10th pro season with the Lizards. A product of longevity, the strictly right-handed Goettelmann knows, but also a determination to have his own kids (daughters Emerson, 3, and Stella, 2) see him play.

And of course, he has a sincere love for the game of lacrosse. Road trips with the boys don't hurt.

He's certainly not playing for the money. Well, he is in a way, but not to keep it. Goettelmann donated his entire 2010 MLL salary -- about $10,000 -- to the foundation and the children's hospital. Keep in mind he has a third child on the way and resides in Garden City on Long Island, not a cheap place to live. He plans to donate the salary again this summer.

"To be able to make some side money in the MLL is nice, and there are a lot of guys out there who say, 'I'm going to take this $10,000 or whatever and put it toward to a new car or a new beach house,'" said Stephen Berger, a Lizards' teammate of Goettelmann since 2004. "It's pretty honorable for him to do that, with two little kids and another one coming. He's got that big heart, like a big teddy bear."

A few minutes after Goettelmann hugged me for the second time that day in Manhasset, I received a voicemail from him as I drove to my parents' house in my hometown of Bay Shore.

"Hey, just wanted to make sure you got out OK," he said. "But you're from Long Island, so I have faith in you. Again, great news; a great day."

I called him back. He thanked me again. I said he deserved it.

"Before you go, I have two people who want to talk to you," he said.

He put his kids on the phone.