Spring sports stuck in frozen state
By Erik Jacobsen and Gene Chamberlain Sun-Times Media March 20, 2013 5:40PM
There was no activity at the Larkin baseball field Wednesday as the prolonged cold spell that has settled in over the area has wreaked havoc on the start of outdoor spring sports. | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 20, 2013 6:33PM
Wednesday marked the first day of spring, but there was no sign of the change in seasons on high school playing fields throughout the area.
The prolonged cold spell that has settled in across northern Illinois has for the most part put a deep freeze on the start of outdoor spring sports.
A few girls soccer teams have braved the elements and played games in the last week, but postponements and cancellations have been the norm at most schools.
Baseball and softball programs have been hit particularly hard by the frigid temperatures. Many teams haven’t even held a practice outside let alone started playing games.
“We’re doing a really good job of hitting whiffle balls,” Hampshire baseball coach John Sarna joked.
Like most baseball teams the Whip-Purs have been confined to the gym, where they are able to hold bullpen sessions, field ground balls and develop an approach at the plate by discussing how to handle different counts.
The extended period of wintry weather is a complete reversal from last year when unseasonably warm temperatures allowed spring sports to reach full gear by mid-March.
“This has been crazy, especially when you consider where we were last year getting a sun tan out there at this time,” St. Charles East baseball coach Len Asquini said. “This year we can’t even get outside. We’d go outside just to throw if it was 35 degrees, but we can’t even do that because it has been below freezing.”
A look at the extended forecast doesn’t offer much hope for a break in the weather any time soon as temperatures aren’t expected reach the mid-40s until the end of next week.
With spring break around the corner for the majority of area schools, baseball and softball teams that have trips to play downstate or out of state likely have the best chance of seeing game action. As for the teams sticking around home, it will take a significant thaw for games to go on as scheduled.
“We won’t have field conditions good enough to play on until after it’s warm enough so the ground isn’t freezing every night,” Bartlett softball coach Jim Wolfsmith said. “I would be surprised if anyone plays before the weekend, if not even until next week.”
Burlington Central softball coach Wade Maisto went one further.
“I don’t think you’re going to see much softball played around here in March,” he said. “We’ve got very good drainage and the field dries quickly, but it’s not going to be ready any time soon.”
Central had already postponed four softball games as of Tuesday.
A year ago South Elgin’s softball team went on a trip to Tennessee to get games in, but temperatures in the 70s and 80s in mid-March in the Fox Valley area made that trip seem unnecessary beyond the obvious team bonding benefit derived from getting away as a group.
South Elgin this weekend will travel to Kentucky to play a series of five games.
“It will be a challenge to get in a lot of softball before April around here,” South Elgin coach Jason Schaal said. “And the practices haven’t been as good since we’ve been inside so much. We’ve only been outside about 40 minutes total.”
Perhaps a move by Elgin and Hampshire is the best way to beat the bad weather. A game scheduled for Thursday was postponed earlier in the week and has been moved indoors at 9 a.m. Monday at the Rosemont Dome, next to the Ballpark in Rosemont.
“Jim Goranson (of Chicago Bash Softball) has been calling on people to fill some time slots there,” Elgin coach Chad Dahlman said. “It’s not a smaller field — it’s regulation with 220-foot fences.”
Maisto would rather wait for warmer, dry weather.
“It’s different for the pitchers to play indoors and your fielders are trying to play it off of FieldTurf, where the bounces aren’t the same,” he said.
The running joke among coaches is they hope to get a few games in before the state playoffs roll around in May. At the rate things are going, a shortened season seems inevitable.