Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s the worst fear of any high school athlete who competes in a spring sport in Minnesota: the sight of rain or snow.
There’s been plenty of it around the state so far this spring, and all it’s done thus far is create headaches and frustration for spring coaches, athletes and school administrators. Athletic directors have been among the busiest with the spring weather. They often make the call on when games get canceled or postponed, and if they’re worth rescheduling.
The spring seasons also present the least amount of time between when regular seasons start and the playoffs begin. We’re into the second half of April, and many teams have not played a single game, been in a tournament or had a track meet yet.
While the rain drops and the snow flies, baseball and softball players are confined to gyms to field grounders, throw and hit in cages. Track teams are forced to run inside, some even spring through their hallways after school to a get a workout in.
Minneapolis Public Schools have canceled all baseball and softball games through Friday, and once this week’s snow moves through, it will take time to melt and get playing fields ready. That’s assuming Mother Nature cooperates, which any spring athlete knows is no guarantee.
The Missota Conference recently decided that all conference baseball and softball games will have to be doubleheaders with a condensed schedule.
It hasn’t been officially addressed by the Minnesota State High School League, but what are the odds the entire spring sports season gets nixed? Would officials extend the season by a few weeks if the rest of April continues to keep teams inside?
They are questions nobody wants to address, but ones they must face if things don’t improve in a hurry. It’s no fun for anyone involved. Many events that initially get postponed will just have to be canceled. Schedules won’t allow for many make-up dates, and the MSHSL doesn’t want kids playing into July, when schools are well into summer break.
Coaches hate practicing inside. They can’t teach the basic principles of fielding a ground ball by hitting it off a gym floor. It’s also hard to simulate hitting the cut-off man or working on your swing inside a batting cage.
Hurdlers in track can’t get in true practice, and while it’s nice to have the perfect lie every time, golfers hitting off mats make it less than ideal to work on your golf swing. Golfers are traditionally the last high school athletes to get outside. They are at the mercy of metro golf courses opening, and for players who need to work on their chipping and putting, nothing can match outdoor practice.
There’s nothing more depressing for a high school spring athlete than to be in class, look outside and see snow falling in late April. There’s also a more serious issue at stake when the weather finally does improve and teams find a way to get outside: injuries.
Many baseball and softball teams will be playing two games per day when the weather finally gets good enough to be playing games. Coaches will have to adjust their pitching as necessary. Playing six games a week can lead to arms wearing out in a hurry. In track, it means multiple meets per week and a greater chance for muscle injuries.
The few baseball and softball teams that have gotten games in have done so at the Metrodome and at the indoor facility in Rosemount. But time at the facilities is a premium. Some teams have played games inside the Metrodome starting at 3 a.m. This is the last year that will even be an option as construction gets started on a new Minnesota Vikings stadium.
It’s a scary scenario if the weather doesn’t improve quickly around the state. Section tournaments typically start for in spring sports in mid-May, less than a month from now. Coaches will truly be tested this year between scheduling and a lack of practice time once the weather improves.
For now, all we can do is accept that Mother Nature isn’t letting the games begin. It’s cold, wet and miserable, but it can only get better from here right? This year’s spring high school sports season figures to be just like the weather we’ve had since early March: crazy and unpredictable.