March 30, 2020
By Evan Lepler - "Disc In" Interview Series Archive
In his AUDL debut, on April 12, 2014, a 21-year-old Ben Jagt registered three blocks, one assist, and one goal in just 14 points played as a member of the Minnesota Wind Chill. Later that season, still two years before he would win a national title as a college ultimate sensation for the University of Minnesota, Jagt caught 10 goals in a game, a record that no one in Wind Chill history has ever surpassed. (Another dynamic rookie, Winnipeg-native Quinn Snider, matched Jagt’s 10-goal performance in a game against Chicago last June.) Even though Minnesota missed the playoffs that year, Jagt was honored as one of the top players in the Midwest Division following his rookie season.
In retrospect, Jagt’s remarking rookie year was just the tip of the iceberg of his overwhelming potential. He moved to New York in 2017, starting playing with the New York Empire, and gradually blossomed into an all-around threat who demanded mention among any conversation concerning the AUDL’s top players. After registering 22 blocks in just eight games as a towering D-line presence in 2017, Jagt shifted to O-line the past couple seasons, in which he’s produced at a staggering rate, with 105 assists, 95 goals, and 25 blocks in 25 regular season games. Impressively, his postseason numbers have largely maintained the blistering scoring pace he established throughout the spring months, as he accumulated 25 assists, 27 goals, and three blocks in six playoff battles over the past two years, including a five-assist, six-goal masterpiece this past August in the championship clinching victory over the Dallas Roughnecks. His overall dominance throughout the season, in which the Empire became the third team in AUDL history to go undefeated, made Jagt a relatively easy choice for 2019 AUDL MVP.
Currently, like the rest of his peers around the league, the now 27-year-old Jagt is simply waiting for the opportunity to return to the field, with a growing sense of anticipation about what his team can accomplish in 2020. It’s hard to fathom the 6’6” cutter improving upon his explosive 2019 season, but there has certainly been plenty of time to contemplate the upcoming journey, if and when it is able to safely commence. Amidst the new normal, Jagt took some time to answer my questions about life, ultimate, and the future. The conversation has been edited slightly for clarity.
Evan Lepler: For starters, how are you and what's it been like in your current hometown over the past couple weeks?
Ben Jagt: I live in Brooklyn with fellow Empire players Josue Alorro, Jibran Meiser ,and (former Wind Chill teammate) Ryan Osgar. Last weekend we went on a bike tour of Manhattan (making sure to observe social distance) and the city was closer to what you saw in I Am Legend than what a typical sunny spring weekend in New York looks like.
EL: What are the biggest changes you've had to make to your everyday life amidst the current circumstances?
BJ: I work part time as a scribe in an emergency room in Westchester so aside from the obvious big changes in the ER it’s been business as usual for my day to day. I'm not going every day but a few times a week. Especially during typical days (outside of this pandemic), we follow doctor's, NP's or PA's around in the ER and help them complete medical charts. I have some interest in medicine and this has been helping me decide if I want to pursue it as a career.
EL: From an ultimate perspective, how have you continued to train and maintain your physical condition in the hope that there will be a season to compete in at some point this spring or summer?
BJ: I’ve been playing a lot less ultimate which is a bummer for me because it has been the main way I stay in shape. That being said I’ve adopted some running and track workouts into my routine which has taken a little getting used to, but I think I’ll benefit by adding it as a regular member of my routine.
EL: Is there anything in particular about your ultimate skillset or mentality that you've sought to improve throughout this offseason, and how have you gone about making the necessary strides to achieve improvement in that area?
BJ: During the offseason I’ve been working on my deep flick and break throws by trying to make little tweaks to my grip, angle of release, release point and stepping out. I hope it will show in competition.
EL: Obviously, preseason practice was interrupted by these unprecedented circumstances, but how were you feeling about your team overall based upon tryouts and early practices? Any insights about your team's mindset, approach, or ambitions heading into the season that you'd be willing to share?
BJ: Just before Empire called off practices I actually spoke with my roommates about how these practices were some of the most intense and strategically robust early season practices we’d ever been a part of. I think one of the reasons we started so well is the overlap between Empire and [our club team New York] PoNY. The people who experienced the disappointment that we had last year on PoNY [losing in the semifinals] are aware of some of the ways a championship hangover can manifest and are obviously eager to avoid some of those same pitfalls.
EL: Now shifting to a slightly different style of questions: what's your favorite game you've ever played in and why?
BJ: The AUDL championship game last year was one of the most satisfying games I’ve ever played in. Playing our best against another championship caliber team in an overall very clean game was a fantastic way to win a championship. Another game that comes to mind is [University of Minnesota] Grey Duck’s 2016 college national semifinal game versus Pittsburgh. Winning that game was ecstasy. I still remember that interview I had with you after winning on universe, I didn’t know what to do with myself. That whole experience was delightful.
EL: You’ve played with many other great players throughout your career. Can you pick one current or former teammate and share something that surprised you either in terms of the way they prepared or led or competed or handled a certain situation?
BJ: Ryan Osgar told me he didn’t go to the gym the month before [USA Ultimate’s Club] Nationals last year and the way he prepared was by playing World of Warcraft. He threw the most assists of anyone in the division at that tournament. On a different note: Observing Beau [Kittredge] before championship games is pretty interesting. During the warm up and moments leading up to the game he is extremely secluded and focused. During our time on Empire together we’ve become good friends, so his preparation/behavior isn’t all that surprising. It’s more just cool to see how the Tom Brady of ultimate does his thing.
EL: What’s one thing you're interested in that has nothing to do with ultimate?
BJ: I have a 75 foot slack-line which I practice pretty frequently when the weather permits. I’d like to transition to high-lining at some point. Another interest of mine is to discover the best dessert in NYC. My current number one is Crème brûlée from The Boucherie the West Village, but I have a whole list of really great places.
EL: What’s one place in the world you've never been before that you hope to travel to sometime when we're on the other side of this pandemic?
BJ: I want to go to Glacier National park or somewhere in the Swiss Alps. I could use some time in nature after being cooped up in our little Brooklyn apartment.
EL: Finally, what are you reading or watching at the moment? Could you recommend a book, a tv show, and a movie that you'd suggest others enjoy?
BJ: A couple of things I’ve been filling my free time with are podcasts and playing League of Legends. One of the podcasts I’ve enjoyed (which is especially relevant now) is an epidemiological podcast called "This Podcast Will Kill You".