On a couple occasions recently Lake Park softball coach Tom Mazzie wandered out to take a look at his field.
It is anything but a sight for sore eyes.
“There is literally a sheet of ice on our infield,” Mazzie said. “It’s not even worth going out and looking.”
Wednesday marked the official first day of spring. Most years some softball teams are a week’s worth of games in.
These days they are in a deep freeze, cold temperatures keeping the season temporarily on ice. Temperatures Wednesday struggled to hit the mid-20s, 25 degrees below average and 60 degrees colder than the record 85 set last year.
Many teams haven’t set foot on their field for practice, let alone a game.
Glenbard South coach Julie Fonda, who probably views the start of softball like a kid does Christmas Eve, has already lost five games to the weather. Her predecessor, Bill Voves, who coached the Raiders for 27 years, said it’s the worst spring weather-wise he’s come across.
It isn’t ideal for any team, but especially one like Fonda’s that is breaking in seven new starters.
“It’s unreal. That’s the only way I can describe it,” Fonda said. “In a year that we needed to have tests before conference it’s frustrating. But there’s nothing you can do about it. Just enjoy the extra practice time.”
Practice schedules have become a juggling act for administrators like Fonda, also the assistant athletic director at Glenbard South. Multiple teams must share a gym, fieldhouse or a turf football field for those fortunate to have one like Glenbard South. On Wednesday Fonda’s Raiders got in work at 5:45 a.m., then went to school.
Mazzie said Lake Park has been fortunate enough to use indoor facilities of the Roselle Rockers travel team. Other programs without turf fields, like Benet, aren’t as lucky.
Benet coach Jerry Schilf said his infielders have yet to take a real groundball or set up a regular defense. With boys volleyball season starting, Schilf’s girls got the Benet gym for 45 minutes Wednesday.
“The brutal part right now is we’ve done the same thing day after day in the small gym, and the kids get bored,” Schilf said. “But everybody is in the same boat.”
Temperatures could creep into the 40s over the next several days, but that is just the start of the thawing out process. Frozen fields will turn into mush when it finally warms, so they probably need 4-5 days of above-freezing temperatures to be game ready.
Mazzie’s Lancers have yet to practice outside. A game with Glenbard North for Saturday has been pushed back to next Wednesday; he wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t have an outdoor game until April 1. Lake Park is playing Wheaton North Monday at the Rosemont Dome.
“Typically in the spring there is a progression before you go on your field. You know where your dry grass is,” Mazzie said. “We’ll go find dry grass, hit in a cage and usually it takes a week before you can get on the field. We haven’t even been able to get on the grass part because it’s frozen. In six years here this is the worst I’ve seen it. Not that we’ve had cold, but the consistent cold.”
“As much as this year is extreme, last year’s warm weather was the anomaly,” Mazzie added. “You want to talk about two extremes, that’s it.”
Schilf, in his 17th year, recalls in year one his team wearing T-shirts in February while setting up a snow fence. A couple weeks ago Benet hit a few flyballs in 8 inches of snow. If forecasted snow holds off, he hopes to get in a Monday game at Neuqua Valley.
“If we have to practice Sunday for a Monday game, that’s what we’ll do,” Schilf said. “I’ll be darned if I’m going to have the first time my infielders are on the field be the first game.”
St. Francis has the ultimate solution — go to Florida for spring break. The Spartans leave for Orlando Sunday and start playing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Monday. Spartans coach Ralph Remus has wanted to make the trip for a few years and lucked into the perfect spring for it.
“It can’t come soon enough,” Remus said.
Every coach and every player around the area couldn’t agree more.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.