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 arts degrees from Ohio State University.

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Another year and the can gets kicked farther down the road with baseball and softball, and the prospects for high school kids who deserve a better, competitive opportunity…and all they would ask is for better weather.

Port Charlotte, FLA – While some might question, you can’t make this stuff up.  From Florida this weekend, where the NCAA baseball season kicks off in 80 degree weather – because someone has figured out that baseball and warm weather go together – I’ll share a recent conversation.

A few weeks ago, standing in the hall outside a high school basketball game, a faithful reader introduced himself and said, “I enjoy your website.  Read you guys everyday.”

Before I could say thank you, however, he hedged.

“But,” he continued, “I suppose you’ll be writing about playing high school baseball in the summer before long, because you always do. And I want you to know it wouldn’t work [in our district]. You just can’t have kids playing after graduation, and you can’t expect the district to pay for the extra busing and supervision. People deserve their vacation time, and besides…a lot of kids work summer jobs to earn money.

Adding, he continued, “You just can’t do everything for everybody.”

This was January, mind you, and his words took me by surprise. Thinking about what he said, I countered with the following questions.

“You’re talking about baseball, I assume, when you say you can’t do everything for everyone. Right?”

He shook his head, yes.

“But let me ask you. What happens someday when you have a trans-gender student in the district?  I’ll bet my house and ten acres you’d arrange for different bathroom arrangements, because there’s going to be some people who won’t be happy if you don’t.

“And when I walked in tonight I walked up the handicapped ramp outside to get to the door. And I’m sure you built those for students and people in the community who use a wheelchair.

“And you play football. So how concerned are you about player safety – helmets, pads, and your playing surface?”

“Safety is always important,” he answered.

“But it’s not important enough in baseball to let kids play in warmer weather to avoid sore arms, hamstring injuries, or a blown out knee on a muddy infield, right?” I asked.

He squirmed for a moment, before offering the expected response.

“Well, there aren’t as many kids who play baseball.  And besides, baseball is a non-revenue sport.”

“But there aren’t that many people who need wheelchair accessible facilities, either.  Just some…like for trans-gender bathrooms,” I countered. “There would be more baseball players than either of those two. So what you’re telling me is you’re willing be everything for everybody as along as it’s bricks and mortar…as long as it doesn’t interfere with the calendar. Right?”

Phoenix Bats, an Ohio company, is proud to support the Buckeyes on Press Pros Magazine.com.

The conversation ended with that, as I suppose it would in nearly every school district across Ohio.

In a culture of hypocrisy, where we say we’re dedicated to do what’s best for kids from one side of our mouth…out of the other there’s countless reasons as to why we can’t, or won’t play baseball in warm weather.  So, we don’t do what’s best for kids…we do what’s best, and convenient, for the adults.  Always have, always will.

This individual was correct, however, for noticing that for years I’ve advocated starting spring baseball and softball in Ohio during May and June – in warmer, more predictable weather.  And I always will, because this flies in the face of the questionable argument for equality and fairness.  In reality, of course, it’s not all that equal, and it’s not all that fair.

They do it in the state of Iowa, where their state tournament is held beginning July 25th;  and I believe there should be the same competitive advantage as there is for boys and girls who play other sports in comfortable, predictable environments.

There is some  support for the argument, specifically from families who are involved with baseball and softball. I hear it from people every year, because those who train for those sports have as much time and effort invested as those who train for revenue sports like volleyball, football, and basketball.  And yet, people from districts all over the state tell me:  “It (baseball) isn’t that big a deal.”

So we kick this can down the road for another year – except in Iowa, where they’ve actually taken the time to find a way. And Ohio did start the baseball season a week later last year…but no one noticed a difference.

In the meantime we grow more comfortable with political priorities by mandate – bathroom diversity for a few – while pointing out that there just aren’t enough numbers playing baseball, while we know there are thousands.

We’ll soon eliminate kickoffs in football for the sake of player safety…while we allow adolescent arms to throw 80 miles per hour on a 38-degree day with 20 mile per hour wind.

And I’m still waiting for the day when they play basketball in January on the court outside in the parking lot – or have someone tell me that it can’t be done because it’s not comfortable, and safe.  And then, of course, tell me that we’re doing what’s best for kids.

Just not all kids!

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College baseball begins here on the Sun Coast of Florida this weekend where Greg Beals’ (Kenton Ridge High School) Ohio State Buckeyes will debut their 2020 roster against St. Joseph (A-10), Pittsburgh (ACC), and Indiana State (Missouri Valley Conference) in the Snowbird Classic Tournament, and annual event run by Sidney native Steve Partington.  Partington, of course, is well known in west-central Ohio, having coached and umpired for many years, and now is a permanent resident in the Port Charlotte area.

Sidney’s Steve Partington runs the Snowbird Classic Tournament and training facilities for northern schools who want to play baseball in warmer weather.

Years ago he (Partington) spear-headed the building by local city administration of a fabulous baseball training facility here in Port Charlotte that attracts colleges from all over the country.  They come from up north to train in decent weather before opening their own conference schedule at home in the 30 and 40-degree temperatures of March and April.  Hence the name, The Snowbird Classic.  In addition to Ohio State, the University of Iowa is here this weekend representing the Big Ten.

If you’re interested, there is a local flavor to the 2020 Buckeyes.  Tipp City’s Aaron Hughes is a sophomore utility infielder on the roster.  Celina’s Seth Lonsway has garnered pre-season All-American honors as a left-handed pitcher.  And Marcus Ernst, with Minster ties, will see considerable playing time in the Buckeye infield.

The Buckeyes finished 36-27 in 2019, won the Big Ten Conference tournament for the second time in four years, and appeared in the NCAA tournament for the third time in the past four seasons.  They’re picked by D1 Baseball to finish third in the Big Ten in 2020, and are ranked #24 nationally in pre-season polls.

They’ll play Georgia Tech next weekend, in Atlanta, Lipscomb, in Nashville (Feb. 28), and return to Florida on March 6th to play Stetson.  They open their home schedule in Columbus on March 13, against Liberty University.

Moeller Brew Barn, of Maria Stein, Ohio, proudly sponsors the Buckeyes on Press Pros.

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