Sliding into second base these days would require a snow pants and galoshes rather than cleats and long pants, and high school teams across the area are finding that the record-setting snow could force most their season to be going, going and gone.
With more than one foot of snow still occupying many baseball and softball fields due to the Snowmageddan of the past 60 days, many local high school programs are scratching their heads about what they’ll do to conduct part of a season without a field. Athletic directors and coaches from Everett, Chelsea and Revere all said they are having to look for creative solutions – and most practices are indoors for the moment – but they believe that they’ll figure out a way.
Unlike track or tennis, the ball fields cannot be plowed clean, and shoveling them out might provide some good exercise for the players, but isn’t exactly practical.
John DiBiaso, Everett High’s director of athletics (AD), said in his career as AD, he couldn’t recall wintry weather wreaking as much havoc on the spring sports schedule as it has this year.
“This is the worst weather we’ve ever experienced heading in to the spring season,” said DiBiaso.
He said the baseball and softball fields are “not close” to being ready for the start of the 2015 season. The Everett varsity baseball and softball teams play their home games at Glendale Park, which is still covered in snow after a brutal winter that set a record for snowfall in the Boston area.
“We’re practicing inside the high school and Lafayette School,” said DiBiaso. “I don’t think we’ll be playing any preseason or regular season games for awhile. It will be at least two weeks, if not more.”
The Everett High track and tennis teams are always conducting their practices indoors, “making the best of a tough situation,” according to DiBiaso.
“I think everyone is in the same boat,” he said. “The seasons are supposed to start in early April but I’m pretty sure that everything is going to get pushed back.”
In Chelsea, the story is the same as in Everett.
Chelsea baseball Coach Alan Beausoleil conducted tryouts for his team on Monday inside the Chelsea High School (CHS) gym. Using rubber balls, Beausoleil and his coaches ran prospective team members through ground ball practice, throwing drills and some rudimentary batting practice.
It’s all improvised, he said, noting that normally he would at least be able to go to the high school’s turf football field. The ball fields in Chelsea are much worse than other fields, as the City had to use the baseball and softball fields as “snow farms” to store plowed snow from the area’s school grounds. At some spots on the softball field, nine-foot tall piles still stood on the pitcher’s mound last Friday.
“Our field has great drainage and in most winters we are outside that first week of the season,” he said. “Obviously that is not going to happen this year as there are still mounds of snow on the baseball and softball fields. We are hoping for a warm stretch in the near future that would allow us to get out there sooner, rather than later. In preparation we have already moved back our first game and our new start date is April 9. The good thing is that, unless you have a turf field that has been plowed, then we are all in the same boat.”
Chelsea softball coach Ted Freeley said he hopes that the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) moves the season back officially.
“Mystic Valley is the only school we play that I know has a turf field, so they might be in a little better shape than most, but the rest of us are in the same boat,” he said on Monday while leading his team through a series of indoor throwing drills. “We might have to move back the start of our season anyway or else we’ll end up playing five games a week. I’ve never seen anything like this, not this bad. I remember two to three years ago we had a lot of snow like this, but it had come over the whole winter, so it melted gradually. I don’t know when this will be gone.”
Fortunately for Chelsea, a few years ago the schools invested in an indoor batting cage. Both Chelsea coaches said that will be the savior for their teams this year.
“We will be holding practices indoors for the foreseeable future and fortunately about three years ago Chelsea High School purchased an indoor batting cage that will definitely help us out in the long run,” said Beausoleil.
Being creative like that seems to be the mantra, such as in Revere where that district’s high-quality turf soccer/lacrosse field is working overtime for the spring sports season.
“Right now the turf field behind our high school is ready to go,” said Shaun Hart, Revere High School (RHS) AD. “That’s huge for us and so far we’re not behind. Unless you get a mild winter, we expect to be inside the first week. We’ll build time into the turf field – splitting it with our boys and girls lacrosse teams – so baseball and softball can get in time outside. They’ll be able to work with the lights on and use the length of the turf field. Kids can get out there and stretch out their arms and get in throwing shape.”
Getting time in the batting cage in Revere – which does not have it’s own indoor cage – is about connections, he said. With the scramble by teams to get batting practice in, many indoor cages are booked solid.
“It is hard to find time, but when you’ve been around long enough, you know who to call,” he said with a laugh.
He said that, like the other programs, scrimmages in Revere have already been cancelled – worrying coaches like Revere softball coach Joe Ciccarello, whose team is coming off of a long postseason run last year and has high expectations for this year.
Hart said his coaches – and all baseball and softball coaches – worry most about their pitchers. Unlike basketball or other sports, it isn’t possible to make up games en masse – such as booking four games a week. That, Hart said, has to do with pitching.
Softball pitchers, and especially baseball pitchers, can’t be expected to pitch multiple times in a week without getting hurt. That, he said, is the best case for calling on the MIAA to move the season back in light of the extraordinary snow circumstances.
“We’re going to continue to move on,” Hart said. “I’m hoping the MIAA pushes the season back a week for everyone. That would take the pressure off. If they could take game one and move it back to game 21, that would help. Bottom line is it’s the right thing to do. We can’t play four games in a week. There’s no team where they have a pitcher with four starts in one week in them…A kid who could save the game for you can’t be available to come in. You’re going to end up having your left fielder pitching, making good teams into average teams.”