With recent weather being in the 70s, one’s thoughts go to baseball and the prospect of area teams and kids getting to play in fair, and competitive conditions…and hopefully most of their full schedule. But we’ve all seen a lot of Ohio springs, so I’m not holding my breath.
I met an area baseball coach in the concourse of UD Arena over the weekend and he asked me, “What do you think of this [warm] weather? We’ve been outside for two weeks. Sure hope it stays this way, because we’re playing next weekend.”
I nodded my head and said, “I hope you can.”
The early spring weather has been good for grass to green, buds to pop, and I see a pair of robins nesting already in an apple tree in my yard. But I’m not holding my breath for high school baseball weather that’s any different than I’ve seen for the past forty years. The forecast is for rain the rest of this week, and a high in the 40s into next week. Then, up and down daytime temperatures, and some sun, and showers.
Looking ahead farther, weather.com is projecting temperatures in the 50s to 60s for most of April, with less-than-average rain. Wonderful…if it happens!
Warm or cold, another year has passed and the issue of allowing kids to play spring baseball and softball in better weather has been kicked to the curb by the National Federation, the Ohio High School Athletic Association, and athletic administrators.
Why? Because why does it matter?
Baseball and softball are non-revenue sports, AD’s will tell you – a drain on the athletic and general budget…facilities, uniforms, busing to games, etc.
In the same breath they’ll tell you that every kid’s dream is important, though; and that every kid’s competitive ambition gets just as much consideration as football and basketball. Only, when it comes to changing the school calendar – when it comes to the inconvenience of playing past graduation and the expense of treating those kids’ ambition the same as they treat football…they get that far-away look.
It just isn’t practical…I hear it all the time. And in the age of safety at all costs, no one seems to worry about pulled hamstrings or arm injuries on a 38-degree day.
Someone once told me, “I wish you’d shut up about it because you only make a bad situation look worse…and yourself like a fool.”
We clamor for equal rights, spend millions to advertise that everyone deserves a place at the table of opportunity, extol the virtues of Title IX, Special Olympics, and para-Olympics…but don’t turn a hand for the simple act of giving kids who play baseball and softball at least 70-degree days in which to compete. Or because of cold and rain, the threat of having their season reduced to a mere six weeks because of lost games and lost time.
“No, no…you’ve got it wrong,” someone will count and say. “Baseball gets just as much time as football gets. March, April and May.”
That’s not true, of course. I think they’re allowed to schedule 26 games, but the average area team is fortunate to play 18 to 20. Not much return on invest for the kids who’ve invested a year’s work and anticipation.
The season doesn’t actually start until the end of March. You lose six to eight games because of rain and cold. And the sectional tournament is scheduled to start on May 14. Count it up…baseball gets squeezed into six weeks if you lose your opening tournament game, compared to at least 11 weeks if you play football – 12 weeks, average, if you play basketball.
And if a local football game with Bishop Hartley (Columbus) is threatened because of weather – lightning, for instance – they’ll move heaven and earth to get that game played, regardless of travel and inconvenience. Every game counts when it comes to the Harbin rankings, and qualifying for the playoffs.
Miss a doubleheader with Newark Catholic in baseball, and that will not be rescheduled because it’s too far, and too much travel and trouble.
Still, they find a way to do it better in the state of Iowa, where high school baseball starts on May 1 and concludes around the 4th of July. And to those who de-prioritize baseball because it doesn’t make money? They sell tickets for high school games in Iowa and I’ve seen it in person. They fill the stands…in places like Lone Tree and West Branch. There’s not a seat to be had.
Discussion is underway, and with the support of NCAA coaches…to actually play college baseball in the summer. Many simply cite fairness of playing conditions as the primary reason for change – to level the field.
“We’ve tried for years now,” says Michigan State coach Jake Boss.
“I’m on board,” Ohio State coach Greg Beals has told me…repeatedly!
But I’m betting on it happening in college baseball – with even more expense, more distance, and inconvenience – before it happens in high school, where Loramie can play Minster and travel five minutes to do it.
There’s just too many things to work around, like prom, and graduation. And there’s liability to consider if you play baseball in the summer, they say. “Besides, kids have summer jobs, and they’d rather make money than play baseball.”
Of course, they don’t work at those jobs 24 hours a day. And I wonder, too, if anyone is ever asks, “Would you rather work, or play baseball…or even do both?”
What I don’t question anymore is the will and the commitment for change. It simply isn’t there, despite how much we talk about doing what’s best for kids. We do a lot, that’s true. But there is a limit, like state championship baseball in the summer. Then we revert to same ol’, same ol’ – lifting for football and playing AAU basketball.
Equal opportunity? I saw some kids playing catch last week, while dodging pools of standing water in the low spots. It made me think of area teams whose season begins this weekend…and the truck loads of drying agent to make standing water into something with the consistency of quicksand.
Not the best of conditions…..
But good enough for high school baseball.