Believe it or not, the high school spring sports season began March 5 with the first day of practice.
Yet, four weeks later, thanks to an especially bad run of weather, most York-Adams League baseball and softball teams have yet to play a game.
In fact, to this point, only four baseball clubs and four softball squads have been able to get a game in. The Dallastown softball team, with four games played so far, is a real outlier.
It’s created a scenario where teams have been stuck inside, on hardwood floors and under ceilings too low to recreate proper fly balls. With a limitation on the types of drills at their disposal, it can quickly create a feeling of monotony.
Adding to the maddening effect is the constant craving for competition and fresh air.
Getting creative: For a pair of teams expected to be division contenders in their respective sports once the games finally begin, it’s led to some creative solutions to get their athletic fix.
“We try to get outside when we can. If a parking lot opens up at school, our outfielders can field some fly balls or something like that,” West York baseball coach Scott Erickson said. “When we got that foot of snow a week ago, we knew we wouldn’t see any green grass for a while, or at least we thought we wouldn’t. So, we went out to a parking lot whenever we could.”
As every bout of wet weather brings another indoor practice, Northeastern softball coach Dave Marsh is trying to mix up things for his players so the daily indoor routine doesn’t become stale.
The team has incorporated games such as kickball, dodgeball and more to their workouts as a means of spicing up practice and getting the Bobcats in a competitive mindset.
“They can still compete, just obviously not at softball,” Marsh said. “It just keeps their competitive juices flowing and lets them have some fun while we’re stuck inside a little bit.”
Pitchers should have edge: Both coaches noted that once the season really gets underway, it will be pitchers who end up with the advantage of all the indoor workouts, since hitters haven’t had a chance to see live pitching yet.
Erickson, while noting the pitchers will have an early edge, said it could be negated by those behind them not getting a chance to see proper fielding practice in the days leading up to game action.
“You see batting practice, you see a coach throwing in a cage every day, but you don’t see it live out of a pitcher’s hand from 60 feet, 6 inches. So, I think pitchers will have the advantage early on,” Erickson said. “But defensively, a gym floor is lot different than a grass and dirt baseball field. I think defense is going to play a big part as well, especially early on until we can get outside and practice more.”
Coaching challenges: Pitchers may have an advantage, but their managers will face some challenges. The coaches will be tasked with managing the pitching staffs while facing packed schedules and adhering to pitch counts and rest requirements.
Like many teams, however, Erickson notes his squad's approach to handling all of that will be a simple one.
“We’re going to play to win that one game, whoever we need to use. The issue is when you start planning too far ahead. You still need to win that game, and can’t get too far ahead,” Erickson said. “We will definitely monitor pitch counts, but for us, it’s just one game at a time. And we’ll figure out the next one when we get there.”
Mental challenges: Potentially one of the more overlooked effects of this weather-related quarantine could be on the psyches of the players when live action begins. One of the benefits of repetitive play is the chance to get past that first mistake.
“The mental part of it, I think, is going to get everyone,” Marsh said. “I think (all teams are) going to start out making some physical mistakes, so as long as you don’t compound that by putting your head down and not wanting the next ball hit at you, or something like that. If you get afraid, then the softball gods will send those next three at you.”
League games to take precedence: As the playoffs get ever closer with each missed day, Marsh notes that many teams might have to cancel some of the nonleague contests they can’t reschedule to give proper time to get in all the necessary York-Adams contests.
Erickson agreed that the non-league contests would be the first to go should the weather continue to pose a problem. However, both he and Marsh noted the plan right now is to try and get every game in.
With wet weather expected to continue in the area for the next couple days, Marsh said that scheduling trouble looms on the back end.
“I think depending on what we get hit with the remainder of this week, they probably would scrap some of those nonleague games,” Marsh said.
He also noted that “being springtime, you’re going to soon run into graduation and other trips toward the end of the school year as well.”
— Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org