Bates College produces its share of future doctors, environmental scientists and investment bankers every year.

But professional athletes? Typically zero, as an NCAA Division III institution embedded in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, renowned for its rigid academic requirements.

B.J. Majeski overcame those odds and three weekends of open tryouts to make the show. The 2006 Bates graduate will begin his unlikely Major League Lacrosse career tonight as a free-agent acquisition of the Boston Cannons.

Think of Dennis Quaid’s portrayal of pitcher Jim Morris in “The Rookie” or Mark Wahlberg’s channeling of football dreamer Vince Papale in “Invincible” and you’re on the right track.

Majeski, 23, has been biding his time as a middle school educational technician and volunteer lacrosse coach at his high school alma mater in Norwalk, Conn., while waiting to embark upon a military career.

It was one of Majeski’s players at Brien McMahon High School who informed him of the MLL application process for a spot in its player pool.

“I am so excited to still be playing. It’s like a dream come true,” Majeski said in a statement released by Bates. “The entire time I’m on the field with the other guys, I have a huge grin on my face and probably look like an idiot.”

He is the first pro lacrosse player in Bates history.

“I hope it says something about Division III and NESCAC lacrosse,” Bates coach Peter Lasagna said. “I think it’s natural when they’re looking at players to think of Division I All-Americans as the sure thing. You’ve got to start by making the team, and he did it.”

Lasagna noted that the success of another former Division III player, Stephen Berger of Washington (Md.) College and the Long Island Lizards, may have paved the way for Majeski and future small-college standouts.

A 5-foot-10, 185-pound defenseman, Majeski didn’t score a single point in his senior season at Bates, attempting only one shot on goal. His tireless work in the defensive zone earned Majeski second-team recognition from NESCAC and an alternate role in the STX/USILA North-South Senior All-Star game.

Those lines on his resume ultimately caught the attention of Cannons head coach Bill Daye, who received a recommendation from Lasagna and issued a training camp invitation to Majeski with four days to spare.

Majeski held his own with MLL all-stars Mike Powell (Syracuse), John Christmas (Virginia) and countless other veterans and rookie walk-ons with a more traditional collegiate pedigree.

“Here I was, at a training camp with some of the best players in the world, and I wasn’t watching them for once. They sure did seem a lot bigger on TV, but they still all just about dwarf me,” Majeski said in the statement. “The ones that are around my height are amazingly fast. It’s almost not fair, but I guess I did something right.”

Lasagna expects Daye to use Majeski in a way that won’t make his small stature a detriment.

“It can be (a problem), if the other guy is 6-4 or 6-5 and 230, because you’re talking about the best lacrosse players in the world,” Lasagna said. “But there are a lot of attackers in that league who are smaller and quick, and that’s where B.J. will be able to stand out.”

Another aspect of the Division III style of lacrosse probably served the hard-nosed Majeski well at his tryout, according to Lasagna.

“There aren’t many ground balls in that league,” Lasagna said. “Having a guy on your roster who can go get those is a real premium.”

Majeski remains awestruck by the concept of being paid to play. Even the minor detail of opening his e-mail and seeing the team logo is exciting, he said.

“My friends joke around about not knowing who’s the lazier professional athlete, me or Manny Ramirez,” Majeski said. “But I am going to ride this for all it’s worth, and enjoy it while it lasts.”

Boston begins its 12-game regular season at the Washington Bayhawks.


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