The crack of the bat, the soft thud of a ball hitting leather, the whoosh of a well swung forehand, the blast of a starter’s pistol and the roar of the crowd are all sounds that have been eerily silent this spring.
A long and protracted winter that has spilled into spring has wreaked havoc on high school sports and left athletes, coaches and fans waiting (and waiting) for the snow to melt.
During a typical year, most local teams would begin playing games this week but that’s not the case this year.
Granville Athletic Director Stephen Palmer said Monday that the school’s teams haven’t even practiced outside, let alone play games.
“We’ve postponed all the events this week and have another meeting on Thursday to figure out what to do for next week,” Palmer said.
Palmer said officials are weighing all options, including a shortened season. He said it’s possible that games could be rescheduled so northern schools like Granville travel and face southern schools early in the season and play their home games later in the season.
The situation is even more extreme in the Adirondack League, where every school in the league, including Whitehall and Hartford have already scrapped their baseball and softball schedules and elected to go with an abbreviated season.
Whitehall Athletic director Keith Redmond said each team will play their divisional opponents only once, instead of twice, and the entire schedule will be played in less than a month. The Whitehall baseball team won’t play its first game until April 22 and will need to fit all 11 of its games in by May 18, the designated cutoff for all Section II baseball and softball games. The league has also canceled its baseball and softball championship games and will go with a winner-take-all format.
“We’re still at about three days a week but then you have to look at rain delays. It makes it tough,” Redmond said.
And even when the snow is gone, the fields may not be ready for play since the maintenance that is normally done in late March has been put off.
“Even when the snow is gone we may not be able to get on the fields until after vacation,” Redmond said.
Besides scheduling, the weather may very well affect on-field play. Section II limits the amount of innings a pitcher can throw in baseball (no more than 18 innings in a six day stretch) so if teams have four or five games in a week they’ll have to rely more on the depth of their rotation than pitching to matchups or maximizing the amount they use their best pitcher. There isn’t an innings restriction in softball so that factor is somewhat muted, although injuries from overuse are a concern in every sport.
“When you play day after day injuries come in to play because you don’t have that recovery time,” Palmer said.
Indoor practices also limit what can be done. Baseball and softball teams can’t simulate fly balls or base running and tennis balls struck off a gymnasium floor don’t behave in the same way they would off an outdoor hard court surface.
“We’ve haven’t had a five-day week yet. We’ve been giving the kids at least one day off so they aren’t pounding themselves inside,” Justin Culligan, Whitehall track coach said. “We haven’t thrown the discus at all or done any pole vaulting.”
Perhaps the thorniest problem could be ensuring that all teams—varsity, junior varsity and modified—have open fields to play one.
“The varsity teams take precedence. Our modified teams could be playing into early June,” Redmond said.
Palmer said that’s less of a problem in Granville where there are more facilities to accommodate all the teams.
But all the coaches echoed a similar refrain: The weather has affected everyone, including their opponents.
“Everyone is in the same boat,” Culligan said.
And there’s little anyone can do but wait for the return of warmer weather.
“It’s unfortunate but there’s not much you can do. Mother Nature is in control,” Redmond said.