We do this dance every spring. When the sun comes out and temperatures slowly climb into the high 40s or low 50s, you take a step forward. When temps drop back into the 30s and a few inches of heavy wet snow falls, you take two steps back. When the sun comes out again, you take a step onto a ballfield, let your feet sink into the damp ground, and go back inside a gymnasium to throw a ball around a few more days.

It’s the Spring Season Shuffle, and we do it every single year. Some years, the dance ends early. Some years, like this one, it seems to drag on a like a melting marathon.

The spring sports season’s start is a hostage to the whims of the seasons. A warm spring means high school and college baseball and softball teams may get a handful of practices outside on brown grass before playing games that count on almost green grass.

For a place that gets a lot of snow in a quiet winter, Maine got a lot of snow this year. The kind of snow that makes meteorologists giggle from New Year’s Day to April Fools’ Day. The kind of snow that makes coaches of spring sports sigh.

I talked to approximately 20 high school baseball coaches last week. None of them has had their team outside for a practice yet. Heading into this weekend, the Colby, Thomas and University of Maine at Farmington baseball teams had combined to play 45 games. Not one of those games was played on any of their home fields. UMF and Colby are scheduled to play in Waterville on Tuesday. Here’s hoping.

Here’s the thing about spring sports in Maine: none of this is unusual. It’s a perpetual nuisance, like taxes or a bad knee.

When I was a freshman, the first baseball game of my high school career was played in snow flurries. I don’t remember other specifics of that day. It was 28 years ago, and I’m pretty sure my junior varsity team lost at Mill River, and I probably grounded out to second and walked, but I remember the snow flurries. And seeing my breath.

No other season has it’s schedule adjusted on the fly like spring sports. It’s not uncommon to see the high school baseball and softball season shave a few games off the schedule simply because fields are unplayable until May. In 2001, a mid-April storm dropped so much snow on central Maine that the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference cut the Class A baseball season from 16 games to 12.

KVAC athletic directors have already discussed pushing early season games this season back to built in off days later in the season. Forest Hills High School baseball coach Mike LeBlanc reported two feet of snow still on parts of his schools field in Jackman. The Tigers first five games are scheduled to be on the road, so there’s a good chance they can host their home opener on May 7 against Greater Portland Christian.

Some track athletes make shoveling off the track as a team building exercise. Lacrosse teams with access to an artificial turf field are able to play. Tennis teams with access to indoor facilities can play. Baseball and softball teams wait for Mother Nature to flip off the snow guns.

The snow that fell earlier this week is already just about gone. The forecast for this week calls for temperatures in the 60s. The remaining snow doesn’t stand a chance. So it might be delayed in some places, and soggy in others, but we’ll have a spring sports season.

Anyway, we always have before.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM


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