Time to Fit in Spring Sports Season Getting Shorter and Shorter

Time to Fit in Spring Sports Season Getting Shorter and Shorter Photo: Minnesota State High School League

April 17, 2018 02:44 PM

Bob Karn has seen a lot of weather-related issues over his 48 seasons as head baseball coach at St. Cloud Cathedral High School.

That's just a fact of life when it comes to spring sports in Minnesota.


But even Karn said he's never seen a spring like this one.

RELATED: Citing Unseasonable Weather, State HS League Allows for Shortened Baseball, Softball Double-Headers

This past weekend's blizzard, which dumped as much as 22 inches of snow on some parts of the Twin Cities metro area, was the latest meteorological setback to teams across the state hoping to escape from gymnasiums and other indoor practice facilities.

Karn, whose 765 career victories are the most in Minnesota history, said his teams have never gone an entire April without playing a game. But the most recent snowstorm makes it more and more likely this season.

Even fields with artificial turf playing surfaces remain buried under snow. And even after that snow melts, grass surfaces will still need time for the frost to come up and the field to dry off.

"Within my memory, this is the most challenging spring we've ever had," Karn said. "That's at least since I started coaching back in 1970."

"Typically, if we get a late snow like this, we've already been outside for at least a few days before we get forced back inside. But since we started practice this season, we haven't been outside once."

Which means baseball, softball and other teams will likely be trying to compress an entire regular season into a time span of just a few weeks in May.

That's why the Minnesota State High School League last week laid out a process to allow for more baseball and softball games in a shorter season. 

The changes allows teams to mutually agree to play two five-inning games in a doubleheader, or doubleheaders with the first game going seven innings and the second just five. Single games must still go seven innings. 

And exceptions are being allowed when it comes to officials. Though every effort will still be made to have two registered officials per game, softball will be allowed to use one if needed (though using a single unregistered official will require a waiver).

Two registered officials will still be required for baseball. Use of one registered and one non-registered official, or just one registered official will require a waiver.

Karn said teams will also cancel nonconference games, making getting an entire conference schedule completed their top priority. And they will try and extend the time allotted for the regular season as long as possible.

State tournaments in softball begin June 7. In baseball, they begin June 14.

"In our (sub-section) we're moving our first game back to Memorial Day when typically there'd be games played the Thursday before," he said. "That leaves that whole week before open."

"We just decided we have to create as many opportunities to play games as possible."

But playing a large number of games in a short amount of time is challenging, especially in baseball where pitch count rules limit how often individual players can be used on the mound.

"We have 11 players indoors working off the pitching mound," Karn said. "And we hope all of them have healthy enough arms to be ready when we get outside because we're going to have to use all of them."

For now, though, teams remain in limbo.

"It's a weird feeling," Bill Tschida, the activities director at Farmington High School said. "Right now, everything is on hold. People keep saying you must be so busy trying to figure all the scheduling stuff out. The fact is right now we're really not. We're kind of stuck in a holding pattern.

"All we're doing as ADs right now is canceling games and meets. Once we're able to get outside, then we'll have to start figuring out how to put all the pieces back together. That's when the chaos will really start as everybody tries to line up workers and officials on short notice."

Farmington senior softball player Emma Frost, whose team won the Class 4A state title a year ago, said the weather has been frustrating for players.

"Especially when it's your senior season," she said. "There's a tournament we go to every year in Mankato and it's always a lot of fun. It's scheduled for this weekend and it looks like its going to get canceled.

"So those are the experiences we're missing out on."

Tschida said the track and field and boys tennis teams at Farmington were able to get outside for a couple of competitions last week. Those surfaces are more easily cleared of snow.

"But that was still only because the kids got out there and shoveled," Tschida said. "I think we had five of the nine lanes on the track open.

"Now there aren't any lanes open. They're all covered up again."

When it comes to baseball, Karn said the compressed nature of the regular season will make it difficult to gauge where teams are at when the postseason rolls around.

"I think regular season records are going to be pretty close to meaningless this season," he said. "To try and tell the strength of teams based on a shortened season like this will be impossible. A team could lose four or five games and it may just have been a product of who was pitching, or how many games the team they're facing had already played."


Frank Rajkowski

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