Designated Hitter: Difficult spring for baseball in Berkshire County
Yes, that was the sun you saw on Saturday afternoon. Maybe that means spring is finally going to stick around for a while.
But if you are a high school baseball coach, this extended winter has been the worst thing imaginable.
"I can’t remember any year being this bad," Lenox baseball coach Kevin Downer said.
Downer is in his 10th year at Lenox, and he was telling me about the problems winter created in allowing him to prepare his team for the season. That, however, is the least of his problems.
For Downer, and the rest of the coaches in Berkshire County, Western Massachusetts and across the commonwealth, this run of cold and wet weather has not only kept teams from full practices and postponed games, but it is also forcing them to push games back.
Take Downer’s Millionaires, who have five games this coming week because of early-season weather issues. With a seven-man pitching staff among his 16 players on varsity, the Lenox coach is concerned about burning them out.
"The hardest part for me is that I have one junior, three sophomores and three freshmen. That’s my staff and they’re young," he said. "It’s going to be a huge task for me to get them through the week."
Taconic baseball coach Kevin Stannard has heard that before. In fact, in more than two decades as the head baseball coach on Valentine Road, Stannard might have thought he’d seen everything. Then again, maybe not.
"We had been on a field one time, and that was for a game," he said. "That’s how bad it was for us."
Both of these coaches understand things haven’t been much better for anyone else. Taconic wasn’t the only team in the state making an on-field debut in its opening game. This isn’t a complaint, because that’s the hand we’re dealt living in New England.
Stannard said he thought the worst was over after last weekend, but that was before the snow and ice event of Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.
"The field was starting to look all right," he said. "It’s been brutal."
And it hasn’t been a lot of fun playing this April.
"Even on the days we played," said Stannard, "we have not played on a nice day."
All of that is the prelude. The biggest thing about the weather is that none of these baseball coaches know what they’ll do if we get some more inclement weather.
"If we don’t get some dry weather, we’re going to be playing 15 games in 20 days," the Taconic coach said.
As it is, Taconic is playing four games in the next week. If Stannard’s starters all pitch seven innings, maybe the Braves can get through unscathed. But if one pitcher gets rocked early in a game and the Braves go to the bullpen, you might find some pitchers with very little experience on the mound.
"That’s crazy for high school," said Stannard. "If a kid throws 85-90 pitches, he’s not coming back in two or three days. It’s not good."
Maybe if every baseball varsity had 20 players on it, there might be enough arms to weather this storm, so to speak.
So if any of you can put in a good word with the weather gods to warm us up and dry things out, I’m sure the baseball coaches will appreciate it.
To reach Howard Herman:
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman
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