The sport of lacrosse has planted roots in Berkshire County, and two teams even qualified for this year's Western Massachusetts tournament.
There will be more teams qualifying in the future, one team will eventually win a championship and there will be numerous all-stars. Pittsfield's Brady Aitken got to be something this year that nobody will ever be again -- the first-ever All-Eagle Boys Lacrosse Most Valuable Player.
"Now that I think about it, it's crazy," Aitken said. "It means a lot to be the first one to go down as the MVP.
"It feels great to be the first one. Now kids can see what it takes."
Aitken originally played with the Pittsfield Catholic Youth Center's lacrosse program, and has been part of the Pittsfield High School lacrosse scene since the Berkshire County Lacrosse Association developed high school-level club teams. His father Scott is also his coach at Pittsfield, and Scott Aitken played collegiately and was the head coach at St. Joseph's before taking over the Pittsfield club.
It was a step up for Brady Aitken and the rest of the players in the Berkshire County League, as they went from being on clubs to being on teams -- with Western Massachusetts championships at the end of the rainbow.
"That's a good assumption," Mount Greylock coach Jeff Stripp said. "The level of play, the energy, it definitely felt different."
What didn't feel different to Stripp and the other coaches in the league was the play of Aitken, who led Berkshire County with 67 goals.
"He was that important to his team. He was the MVP to his team," said Stripp. "You take away Brady from Pittsfield and they were a whole different club. Everything ran through him."
For his part, the MVP admitted that it did feel different playing this year than it had in the past.
"The lacrosse became more serious. We tried our hardest every single game," Aitken said. "The thought of Western Mass. made it more competitive at every practice to every game."
The Pittsfield season was a good one. The Generals went 12-4 and qualified for the Western Mass. Division II tournament. Pittsfield earned a No. 9 seed and opened up against eighth-seeded Northampton, a team with a much longer history of lacrosse.
And while the Blue Devils earned a 14-3 win, that did not diminish what Aitken and the Generals accomplished.
"There were a lot of us on the team who had never played in a game like that," he said. "Now the Valley teams know who we are. We're a team from Berkshire County that everyone has to check up on."
At Pittsfield, Aitken played football and basketball. Gro wing up, he was a baseball and lacrosse player in the spring, choosing to take the lacrosse route during high school.
That had to be a little bit tough because had he chosen baseball, Aitken would have been playing for Western Mass. tournament bids for more of his career. Baseball was fun, he said, but lacrosse was more fun.
"It feels like everything paid off. It's like a Western Mass. feeling," Aitken said. "The MVP and the Western Mass. [tournament] made the switch 10 times worth it."
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