Iwamoto makes debut with Denver Outlaws and makes history

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DENVER — When the Denver Outlaws faced off against the Dallas Rattlers on Sunday, history was made. Standing in goal was Kai Iwamoto, making his Major League Lacrosse debut.

“It was the best time in my life, including everything, it was so much fun,” Iwamoto says of his first start in goal. “Actually, I was not nervous at all, just so excited.”

The Outlaws two top goalies, Jack Kelly and Dillon Ward, were both in Israel for the FIL World Championships. The next man up was Iwamoto, who became the first Japanese citizen to ever play in an MLL game.

“It’s an international game now, and it’s great that we were able to be a part of it,” said Outlaws head coach B.J. O’Hara. “Kai’s been a great teammate for us all year, and today we needed him to play well and he did.”

Iwamoto started playing lacrosse in high school while living in Japan. His high school was one of the few in Tokyo that had a boy’s lacrosse team.

“My friend asked me to come to practice for just fun, and I tossed the ball and I just got into it so much,” he remembers. “I quit everything to play lacrosse, to focus on that.”

Now, he’s helping to spread the game to the next generation of players.

“I coach kids in Japan. I always say ‘just have fun,’ because you love lacrosse, you picked up a stick, that’s why you’re playing.”

Kai and the Outlaws got off to a strong start in Sunday’s game, before Dallas rattled off a few late goals to steal a win on the road. But through it all, it was the 32-year-old rookie from Japan who was playing like a kid and soaking up his historic moment.

“I just wanted to show them I was having fun, smiling all the time. I think I did that too.”

“He really looked like he was having fun out there,” said O’Hara. “That’s really what it’s all about.”

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