Weather’s the wild card for spring teams

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There’s an old movie line that goes, “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.” Yes it does, but it also falls on every baseball and softball field this side of Timbuktu.

The spring sports season is hard to prepare for with a mere three weeks to get the arms and legs limber enough to meet the long haul of the two-month grind of competition.

There are the constant holes to fill in the lineup created by the departure of last year’s graduating class. There are the everyday workouts to shake off the rust of the long, hard winter as sports teams move outdoors.

And just to make things a little more interesting there are the occasional cloud bursts that send teams scurrying back inside to retreat from the harsh elements—rain, wind and even snow.

How much can be accomplished inside a gymnasium when your sport is more geared for the open air space of the good old outdoors?

“There is really not a whole lot you can do indoors when it comes to track,” Naugatuck track coach Ralph Roper said. “You can do little track exercises running around indoors but the field events are out. You can’t practice the throwing events; pole vaulting and even the jumps are a bit of a challenge.

“You basically do the best you can do and hope to spend as much time outside as you can to get the full benefit of your practice time,” Roper said.

The Woodland softball team hadn’t yet been able to practice outdoors as of Tuesday, according to coach Loren Luddy. The Hawks saw their first action outside in Tuesday’s scrimmage against Oxford but haven’t been able to practice on the field because of the rain and cold wind.

Luddy said the lack of outdoor practice makes it difficult to develop young players and try to figure out the order of the depth chart.

This past winter saw an unusual amount of cancellations due to the weather and it had an adverse effect on teams. This caused many teams to forgo practices and some teams played games for weeks on end without any practice time. It began to take its toll as coaches began to see their team continuity begin to break down and deteriorate as the season went along.

Naugatuck boys basketball coach Mike Wilson lamented during the season that “the lack of a consistent practice routine was starting to effect the team’s decisions especially late in the game.”

Fortunately the teams that play spring sports don’t have to deal with school being cancelled due to rain but it does limit their ability to get the most out of their practice times. No one needs to risk injury slipping on wet pavement as the tennis teams and the track teams prepare for the rigors of competition.

As far as baseball and softball is concerned once the field is wet it usually will stay that way until Mother Nature and Father Time have the chance to do their things. Raking and applying speedy dry are fine, but a puddle is still a puddle and is not very conducive to the game that is played in between the base paths.

Even when rain is not a factor March and April can be bitter and cruel months to be playing outdoors. There is still the threat of snow left over from winter’s wrath, although many of us prefer to deny that existence.

Two years ago in the Seymour-Naugatuck 16-inning softball marathon snow started falling before the final out as
fans rushed for cover.

There is really no easy answer or quick fix to mend a persistent problem as a bright sunny April day can quickly turn into a gray sky with biting wind chill as a storm front approaches. The only real remedy or precaution one can take is to keep a keen eye on the Weather Channel.