Commentary

Warmer weather sorely needed for spring sports

By

The transition from the hardwood to the diamond is never an easy one for central Ohio high school baseball and softball players, but this spring might be even more of a challenge.

The lingering cold weather from our lengthy winter has kept most teams practicing inside gymnasiums longer than normal, which may equate to more errors and longer games in the first few weeks of the season.

Many schools and leagues draw a line in the sand at 40 degrees. Like a chalk line on an infield that denotes fair and foul territory, this line indicates when a game can be played and when it can't. If the temperature is 40 degrees or below at first pitch, the game is canceled or postponed until a later date.

Grandview has the 40-degree rule through being a member of the Mid-State League. Bobcats baseball coach Chris Herring said the weather has kept his team indoors and definitely has had an impact on his players.

"You can't duplicate a baseball diamond in a gym," Herring said. "It's tough to pick the ball up on a light wall when you are hitting and you can't replicate an entire field. Even when you are hitting, you can't tell where or how far the ball is going. (Practicing in the gym) has its limitations."

This spring, Justin Swallie is getting his first taste of being a head coach in baseball. He has taken over at Hilliard Davidson for Jim Dougherty, who spent 32 seasons leading the Wildcats program.

Swallie said the cold weather is just a portion of the hand dealt to coaches, but the chill in the air doesn't make things easy.

"When you play in Ohio, you play in the 40s and have to get used to it," he said. "We're all in the same boat. When you have nice weather, you have to take advantage of it.

"But it's tough to keep switching from indoors to outside. Making that adjustment from indoors to outdoors to indoors again isn't easy."

Olentangy Liberty baseball coach Ty Brenning agreed the switch isn't easy, especially in evaluating new players.

"Guys can fool you inside," he said. "They can look good in a confined space, but they look different when they throw from 150 to 200 feet. It's most difficult to judge outfielders more than anything."

Justin Richards is in his second coaching stint at Johnstown after leading the baseball team to a Division III district final in 2011. The Johnnies have an artificial surface on the football field, allowing the baseball and softball teams to practice outside when many natural-surface diamonds are water-logged, muddy messes.

"We have been out about 12 or 15 times (as of March 25) because you are not going to get any better in a gym," Richards said.

"You can't work on your bunt coverage in the gym, or first-and-third situations ... or at least work on them effectively. I think we might be ahead of the game because of that."

Johnstown was to open in baseball and softball March 31 at Northridge. Because of that, Johnnies softball coach Steve Smith has had his team outside as much as possible.

"You have to play on the dirt when you play games, so you have to get out there as much as you can," he said.

"There are times when you can't get out there, but you have to be able to make that transition. You have to be ready to play outside when it's cold."

Brenning and Liberty traveled south to begin the season March 30-April 1 in a tournament at the Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The prospect seemed great until Brenning looked at a long-range forecast.

"It's only supposed to be a few degrees warmer down there (62 in Myrtle Beach to 54 in Columbus) when we open (March 30), and then on (March 31) it's supposed to be warmer in Columbus (68 here to 65 there)," Brenning said March 25.

"I guess (the cold weather) just follows us around."

That's probably par for the course considering the especially long winter that we have had. We probably all are ready for warm weather. Hopefully, it's just around the corner.

Comments