Unseasonable weather has enabled area baseball and softball teams to practice outside more than past springs. Infielders are taking grounders on surfaces a lot more uneven than a gym floor, and outfielders have been able to track fly balls.

Unseasonable weather has enabled area baseball and softball teams to practice outside more than past springs. Infielders are taking grounders on surfaces a lot more uneven than a gym floor, and outfielders have been able to track fly balls.

The extra outdoor practices seem like a luxury. However, there could be a price to pay during the season.

"I could see teams getting in trouble by not spending enough time with pitchers and catchers indoors and just going out and having (practice)," Olentangy High School baseball coach Steve Little said. "In the past, pitchers and catchers started a couple of weeks earlier (than the position players), but this year everyone started at the same time (Feb. 20). With the warm weather and teams going outside earlier, I would not be surprised to see some tender arms because they didn't throw as much to build up their arms.

"You have to be very careful not to cheat the pitchers. Instead of doing all of the team stuff outdoors, we make sure we are throwing 45, 50, 60 pitches off the indoor mounds every day."

It's not surprising that coaches are getting in outdoor practices whenever they can, especially after last season. The rainy spring had some teams going nearly two weeks between games, and saturated fields also limited practice time to work on fundamentals.

Worthington Kilbourne's baseball team went 11-11 during the regular season with 12 seniors on the roster, then won three consecutive games in the Division I district tournament, including a 2-1 victory over top-seeded Pickerington North in a semifinal in nine innings.

"Fortunately, the weather (during the preseason) has been awesome and that's going to help us get ready," coach Jeff Boulware said. "Last year we had limited practice time because of all the rain. We never could find a rhythm until we got to the tournament."

The weather has allowed Hartley baseball coach Morgan Assmann to have a spring in his step - and his wardrobe.

"I have a 72-degree policy that when it's less than 72 degrees, we have to wear long sleeves," Assmann said. "When you throw in this weather, you recuperate so fast, and we've been in short sleeves. I've actually been able to wear shorts to practice. It's baseball weather."

Tim Saunders, who has been the baseball coach at Dublin Coffman for 25 years, said the weather "has been as good as it's ever been" this early in the season.

"I think teams are going to be a little further along defensively than usual because there's nothing that you can do in a gym that's going to completely replicate playing baseball outside," he said.

Grandview softball coach Jim Amato agreed.

"We have been able to get out and work on some defensive situations that you really can't do well inside," Amato said. "There have been years that we haven't been able to get outside until the first game. The game is played outdoors, so it's good to get outside whenever you can."

Wellington baseball coach Craig Jones hopes the extra work outdoors will help his team improve on last season's 5-15 record.

"It's been a tremendous leg up, and being able to practice outdoors has been a huge, huge help," he said. "We've been working on defensive things in the outfield because we graduated our starting outfield last year and we're starting over in that area.

"To be outdoors and hit fly balls as opposed to throwing lobs in a gym has been a big difference. To hear and see a fly ball off the bat and having room to run without worrying about hitting a wall or a curtain has been fantastic. We have been able to get out more since February than we were all of last season."

Scott Todd has the opposite situation with his Central Crossing baseball team. His veteran group expects to be fundamentally sound when it takes the field.

"This is probably the most we've been able to get outside and get on a field before our first scrimmage," Todd said. "The fact that we have pretty much our entire team back from last year, it's good that we already have our system in place.

"We're in a situation where we're actually able to get outside and do some intra-squad games instead of the first time we take the field being a scrimmage and not knowing what we have, much like we did last year. This year we know what we have."

The Johnstown baseball team was able "to get a second scrimmage in, which is pretty much unheard of," said first-year coach Tony Cleveland, who was coach at Watterson from 2007-09 and most recently an assistant at Coffman. "We've been outside more than inside."

Newark Catholic baseball coach John Cannizzaro has had teams reach the Division IV state tournament eight times since 2002, winning four titles and finishing second twice.

"The weather has been astonishing. The preseason is usually about thawing and freezing, thawing and freezing. We haven't had either this year," Cannizzaro said. "The only problem now is the popup storms you don't usually get until the tournament in May. It's been a record-setting spring so far. I just hope it continues into the season."

Hilliard Bradley softball coach Kevin Moody is skeptical about that possibility.

"I just hope this doesn't end up being a tease where you get all ready and then get forced to practice indoors because of the rain or cold," said Moody, who is in his 27th season coaching in Hilliard. "That would set everyone back and it would be a shame after getting in some good early work."

The weather also has given teams more opportunities to evaluate their players.

"Every day we are finding new possibilities, and it is making for an exciting spring," eighth-year Delaware baseball coach Mike Yinger said. "With this great weather, I would imagine everybody in the state is way ahead of schedule. So there should be some really good baseball."