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updated: 3/29/2014 4:29 PM

Frustration, frozen ground just keep lingering

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Watching this winter progress, it became increasingly and painfully obvious there would be a late start to outdoor spring sports.

But even this is, well, it's just gotten a bit ridiculous, has it not?

Not since 2009 has the start of a baseball/softball/soccer season been delayed like the hold we currently have on this spring season.

And it does not appear it's going to get much better in the bear future.

While we'd like to thing it's spring, at least that's what the calendar says, it still feels like winter and the frost line of the ground from central Illinois north tells us it may say it's spring on the calendar but it is not spring on athletic fields.

While the large majority of area schools are just coming off spring break, athletes will continue to practice indoors or on concrete parking lots.

Over the past couple of days I spoke to a sampling of coaches and athletic directors around the area and they did not paint a very promising picture concerning the current condition of their fields.

"Through spring break we knew we weren't going to have anything so I haven't even been on them," said Bartlett AD Jeff Bral on Saturday. "I'm sure they're starting to get a little squishy which tells me this coming week could be tough. I think we'll have a lot of questions answered the next couple of days."

Bral, who added that Elgin Area School District U-46 grounds people have told him the frost line is at roughly 22-24 inches, is alluding to the weather forecast that is calling for 60-plus temperatures on Sunday and Monday.

But as any good farmer knows, all that warmth is going to do is begin what has been an incredibly slow drying process. There's 2-plus feet of frost under the surface that has to come out, which will make fields a virtual quagmire. Then, with a few mornings of subfreezing temps, and a few days with rain in the forecast ... well, you get the picture.

"We can probably play soccer next week but I went out to the baseball field (on Wednesday) and tried pushing a screwdriver into the dirt and I couldn't go more than about an inch and it felt like I was hitting asphalt," said Dundee-Crown AD Dick Storm.

Not good.

One of the toughest jobs an AD has is scheduling and the delay to the start of the season makes it a double challenge.

"I can't even start rescheduling anything because I don't know when we'll be able to get started," said Burlington Central AD Steve Diversey. "Our grounds people haven't even been able to get on our fields yet. I was told maybe the middle of next week. We're in a little better shape because we have the ag lime fields but I'm waiting for the green light. I don't want to be the guy who goes out there too soon."

And as badly as everyone is champing at the bit to get started, too soon equates with safety, which has to be the first concern when making a decision if a field is playable or not. While the surface of a field may look and feel fine, digging into the dirt and the turf with spikes can render it dangerous beyond the naked eye.

Schools with turf fields have a luxury. Softball teams who have been able to play in the Rosemont Dome have at least gotten a little game action in. And a few teams were able to travel south for a day or two or even a week, but the large majority of outdoor high school sports around here are going to be in a holding pattern for a good week to 10 days, and that's assuming we don't get an abundance of rain.

One sport happy for a hiatus between the indoor and outdoor seasons is track and field. There are very few meets scheduled prior to the week of April 7, and that's a good thing.

"We could run right now but our field event areas are a mess," said Burlington Central boys coach Mike Schmidt. "The discus would just stick and the jumping pits aren't safe."

Yes, there will be a precious few fields that will become playable now or early next week, even though I have serious reservations about how safe they'll be when the temperature does get into that 50-60 range.

But all it really takes to understand the state of things is to read the following statement posted Tuesday on the City of Elgin's website concerning the city's outdoor athletic fields. The statement says, in its entirety:

The 2013-2014 winter season was uncommon for the Chicagoland area. Having experienced the third highest snowfall on record and freezing temperatures, the havoc done to our fields and parks has been unnatural. Current readings show a freeze line at about 3-5 feet which is extraordinarily rare. As our temperature above the ground slowly warms up, remember that the ground may not be even close to the air temperature and it will still be experiencing a freeze/thaw cycle.

Lasting damage can occur during early season use of a field when grasses are not actively growing or when grasses are not growing quickly enough to recover from wear. This damage may require costly renovations resulting in down time later in the spring, summer, or fall.

While fields may show green and growth, during their thaw cycle, they are not replacing leaf and stem tissue at a rate that is rapid enough to maintain a dense playing surface. The replacement of tissue is critical for the grass plant to recover in order to maintain turf density and field safety. When the grass is not allowed the allotted time to recover or when conditions are not good for recovery, the turf will thin and player safety will then be compromised. Playing on a wet field that is still defrosting, or playing on a frozen field are considered conditions that are not good for recovery.

We take pride in our athletic fields and parks and we do not want to jeopardize them any further. Turf recovery from damage could take years if they are played on when the fields are closed.

All athletic fields (soccer, softball, open areas) located at the Elgin Sports Complex and Elgin park areas are closed until further notice. Once our weather conditions improve, we will announce an opening date.

If that doesn't say it all, I don't know what does.

Honoring Lenny: Bartlett High School will honor 2007 graduate Lenny Gulczynski this week when it retires Lenny's No. 15 volleyball jersey. Gulczynski, who served in the U.S. Army, was killed Sept. 17, 2008 at the age of 19 while serving in the Middle East. A former Hawk football and volleyball standout, his jersey is currently being worn by his brother, Mike, a senior volleyball star for the Hawks. Mike will continue to wear the jersey this season, then it will be retired, and a ceremony to commemorate that and to honor Lenny's memory will be held Thursday when the Hawks host IMSA in their season opener at 4:30 p.m.

"You can't retire jerseys all the time in high school," said Bartlett AD Jeff Bral. "But this is special, and this is for everyone, for all of us. We're hoping to see a lot of people come out and honor Lenny's memory with us."

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