The big boys in the Major Soccer League don't like Billy Ronson.
They have been known to punch him out, spit on him and call him names every time he gets near them.
The reason is simple.
Ronson, 5 feet 4 and 140 pounds, isn't very pleasant to be around when he walks on the soccer field.
Reckless Ronson can psych out an opponent with constant chattering, a tug of the jersey here or a pull on the pants there, a well-placed knee to an opponent at the opportune time and anything else he can get away with.
"I'll do or say anything to help win a game," said Ronson, who will be up to his usual tricks tonight at the Baltimore Arena when the Baltimore Blast meets the Cleveland Crunch at 7:05.
"I don't go out on the field to make friends," said Ronson, a midfielder who leads the Blast in scoring (one goal, nine assists) after a team record of six assists in Saturday night's 13-9 victory over the St. Louis Storm.
Ronson was named yesterday as the Offensive Player of the Week in the MSL for getting one goal and seven assists in two games against the Kansas City Comets and the Storm.
Ronson probably can count his friends in the league on one hand.
"He's [Ronson] always right in your face," said Cleveland Crunch defender Bernie James. "He gets on your nerves and irritates you after a while. But he's a good player."
James, 6 feet, 200 pounds, has had his share of yelling matches with Ronson over the years, but James has held his temper.
The same can't be said for James' teammates, goalkeeper P.J. Johns and forward Zoran Karic.
Johns felled Ronson with a right hook in the opening game last season at the Baltimore Arena, and Karic spat on Ronson last season during a Baltimore-San Diego Sockers game. Karic was later traded to Cleveland.
Johns insisted he was aggravated into the punch by a Ronson knee to the thigh. Karic said Ronson wore his patience thin.
Whatever the reason, St. Louis forward Preki got into the act of retaliation against Ronson in a preseason contest three weeks ago. Preki spit on Ronson.
"I guess you'd have to say Billy Ronson is a little nuisance," said James.
Ronson is so little that he was told at the age of 14 in his home town of Blackpool, England, that he would never play a professional sport because he was "too small."
Those words from some coaches and friends, said Ronson, have driven him to a career that has spanned 13 years in English outdoor soccer and five years with the Blast.
Ronson had to prove himself all over again when he signed with Baltimore in February 1986.
Since Ronson had never played indoor soccer and was from the same home town as coach Kenny Cooper, the immediate reaction from some people was that Cooper was playing favorites.
"That was a disgrace," said Cooper. "You don't think I would play someone because I like them when my job is to win games. I put more pressure on Billy than anyone, and I'm proud of the way he's worked hard to make himself close to an All-Star player."
If Ronson finds friends hard to come by among the players, the opposite is true with the fans.
Ronson makes many personal appearances around Baltimore and has become one of the most popular players in town. Ronson just bought a town house in Timonium.
"I'll be 34 in January, and it's about time we [Ronson and wife, Julie] settle down someplace and stop renting," he said. "I can be a U.S. citizen in five years, and that's about how long I plan to play. Then I'll get a job in Baltimore and live here. America has been good to me and I appreciate what I have here."
Blast owner Ed Hale said he plans to offer Ronson a job in his Port East Transfer company after his playing days are over.
"I like Billy a lot," said Hale. "His work ethic on the field is enough to show me he would be the kind of guy to work for me."
* Opponent: Cleveland Crunch
Site: Baltimore Arena, 7:05 p.m.
Radio: WCAO (600 AM)
Outlook: This is the second of five straight home games for the Blast (1-2). Blast goalkeeper Scott Manning (strained lateral ligament in left ankle) will miss his third game. Dale Mitchell (bruised right thigh) is expected to play.