Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has dual degrees in music from Ohio State University.

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On the occasion of Bradford winning its first title ever, and it being in softball…and Fort Loramie vying for its fourth baseball title this weekend, remember how much better it would be for kids that compete…if they could play in decent conditions.

It’s the perfect time to bring up the issue, and one I’ve advocated – harped on – for decades.

On the occasion of Bradford having won the OHSAA Division IV softball title Sunday, and with Fort Loramie playing this weekend for the Division IV title in baseball, everyone is on social media paying tribute and saying how “awesome” it is.  How “special” it is.  And, “these kids deserve all the credit they can get”.

No argument here.

This is what the people are saying, not Press Pros.  Which again leads to the elephant in the room concerning how baseball and softball is played…and when it is played!  That being, those same kids who you think are so special deserve to play their chosen game in better weather than the slop they get in Ohio during March and April.  There’s no reason in the world for risking arms and leg injuries by asking them to play in 40 degree temperatures…and blowing rain.

There’s no reason in the world why they shouldn’t play their entire 26 game schedule (not losing games to rain and cold), because like football they train all year for a short six-week window they’re allowed before tournament time.  Football and basketball get twice that.  We stress fairness and safety until we’re out of breath, but when it comes to baseball and softball…no, it has be wrapped up before graduation – the more important issues that come with the end of the school year.

School administrators have told me,  “It’s not a revenue sport and we just can’t dedicate the time on baseball (and softball) like we do football and basketball.”

Opponents to change have said. “It’s not that big a deal.”

So this is NEVER going to go away.  It’s NEVER going to be fixed.  And it’s NEVER going to be a priority with OHSAA membership.  And the reason…it doesn’t make money, and the calendar!

Snow in the air and hot chocolate in hand.  You need it to watch baseball and softball during Ohio springs.

There’s only so many days in the school year, and when all the mandatory responsibilities are out of the way school administration scatters like quail – vacation time, family, and the privilege of having some time for yourself.  It’s understandable, and it’s rational.  But it doesn’t help those kids who like those in football train year-round for their competitive passion…and then be forced to play in less than competitive conditions.

One area coach admitted when I asked him recently.  “If you were the athletic director would you push for summer baseball?”

“H-e-c-k no,”  he answered, honestly.  “I’ve got a family and they want to go on vacation in June and July.  I can’t be back here coaching.  Besides that, kids have jobs in the summer and don’t want to play baseball.”

They point to the issues of added cost for busing, staffing, and facilities maintenance.  I’ve heard, “Seriously, it’s asking a lot when you consider how few kids actually play.”  I wonder if anyone thinks that now, given the good feeling that comes when teams like Bradford break through and win the first championship in their school’s history?  From the overnight reaction on social media, it suddenly seems like IT’S NOT THAT MUCH TO ASK!

For years I’ve badgered former OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass, who is a professed baseball man, and like others, admits that baseball and softball kids do deserve a better shake.  In his last year as executive director (two years ago) they actually delayed the start of the seasons…by one week…to account for those early days of cold, rain, and blowing snow.

“But it wasn’t enough,”  said Snodgrass, admitting that one week in Ohio is like throwing a deck chair overboard to save the Titanic.  It doesn’t make enough difference.  “But there’s a lot of obstacles when you consider playing baseball in the summer – Legion baseball, ACME baseball, and competition for athletes.”

Phoenix Bats, an Ohio company, proudly supports amateur baseball on Press Pros Magazine.com.

But somehow they do it in Iowa, where spring baseball starts in May and concludes with the state tournament being played somewhere around the 4th of July.

“It works here because we’ve done it for so long,”  an official with the Iowa High School Athletic Association said to me by phone.  “Somehow everyone agrees that it’s worth doing, and something good to do on behalf of the kids in summer.  Somehow we get around the issues and make it work.”

Other states have tried, but only Iowa remains as that one state that hangs on.

As to the question of no revenue from baseball?

“Schools sell tickets for $8, the people come out, and it’s an enjoyable evening for the communities,”  that official said.

But we can’t, and we won’t do it in Ohio.  In fact, from everything I’ve derived…we won’t even try.  It’s still too big an obstacle even in light of other issues on the horizon about which schools will be mandated to change – trans-gender facilities, increased diversity, and the increasing demands on public schools to do more with a diminished budget.

But for the sake of baseball and softball there’s no diverse thinking, compared to the hoops we jump through for football and basketball.  Ask someone to play basketball outside in the middle of January and gauge the reaction you get.  Preposterous!

But come April, it’s just the risk you take if you blow out an arm, tear up a knee, and shiver in the cold.  Baseball – softball – is a stepchild sport, something we have to get done in time for vacation.

Bradford proved again over the weekend just how good it can be.  Loramie hopes to do it for the fourth time since 2007 this weekend.  We’re all onboard for now.

But it deserves better.

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