Two-time AUDL (American Ultimate Disc League) MVP Ben Jagt leads the New York Empire to another championship
Two-time American Ultimate Disc League MPV Ben Jagt (pronounced Yaught) led the New York Empire to the 2022 championship with an undefeated 15-0 season. It was the Empire's second championship in three years.
Despite moving to defense midseason, Jagt remains one of the top scorers in the league. Ben now has 44 goals and 44 assists in the postseason, giving him the most all-time scores in the history of the AUDL playoffs.
Jagt joined SportsJam with Doug Doyle to talk about his superstar career in Ultimate.
Jagt say many people don't the physical tools needed to play in the AUDL.
"Ultimate is a cross between football, basketball and soccer, all with a frisbee. You can go from playing offense to defense right away just like basketball and soccer and then like football you have to score in an end zone. It gets the rep of a dog sport, everyone is chasing the disc around like we're throwing to dogs. Anyone who has thrown a frisbee knows it's fun and sort of mesmerizing to throw but the skill cap is extremely high. The players who can throw the best in the league have been throwing for more than a decade and doing it very consistently and conscientiously to make sure they're improving. For instance, I tried out for Team USA earlier this year and just in one day of that tryout I ran 10-11 miles. It's some jogging but it's a lot of sprinting around. It's pretty demanding. I think on that weekend I ran close to 25 miles. It's a a lot of running, a lot of strategy when you're cutting, when you're exerting energy, it's a lot of mental work and a lot of physical work."
As one of the giants in the game, Jagt has the ability to leap high in the air to make sensational scores and plays. He made several key plays in the Empire's 20-14 win over the Chicago Union in the Championship Game in Madison, Wisconsin on August 27. Some consider this year's New York Empire squad to be the best team ever. Ben showed he was a team player when he easily made the transition to defense for a team loaded with stars.
"In the past, I've been on offense and have been a pretty lethal scorer, assist maker and space maker. I'm 6'6" and have a decent amount of athleticism so I was ready to bring that to defense. One of our stalwart defenders also happens to be an incredible offender so we kind of flip-flopped and a I brought my offensive acumen and ability to throw the disc deep to defense and he brought his big body and play-making ability to offense and it was a pretty harmonious match. Our depth is incredible. The organization from ownership to coaching to captains to players is touch-notch at every level. The whole team has been so fun this year."
Jagt has seven brothers and grew up in a military family that moved around a lot before settling in Minnesota. Ben played ultimate in college at the University of Minnesota where as an All-American he helped the team win a national championship in 2016. Prior to his college career, Jagt played three seasons as a professional with the Minnesota Wind Chill.
Jagt's family was on hand for this year's championship weekend in Wisconsin. His girlfriend Anna Mazarakis was there too. Mazarakis is a Princeton University graduate who started her media career as a WBGO News intern and contributor. She is now working on a new business podcast at Bloomberg.
Anna, who also joined SportsJam with Doug Doyle, admits she didn't know anything about Ultimate Disc until she met one of the dominating forces in the sport.
"He's such an incredible player, a team player, so it's really exciting to watch him out there. Now I'm the biggest fan. It's my favorite sport."
Jagt says the AUDL has come a long way since his days with the Minnesota Wind Chill.
"I wasn't quite the same league. The Minnesota Wind Chill were a little less competitive back then. I think they only had a single playoff berth, so it was a little different for sure but after college I had made some connections and ended up getting recruited to come and play in New York and it's been a match made in heaven. I've really enjoyed it. The ownership has been phenomenal, the organization is great and the league is on the up and up I think in general.
Jagt was the AUDL's MVP in 2019 and 2021.
You can SEE the entire SportsJam interview with Ben Jagt and Anna Mazarakis here.