With snow still covering the area this past week, it's hard not to look back at this time last year when it was 80 degrees outside and we were all walking around in shorts and seeing local baseball fields occupied by high school teams.
Three weeks into practice and many teams have practiced outside once. Last year, teams had practiced inside once by this point in the season.
The Westfield Wolverines had a scrimmage slated for March 19, but was obviously canceled due to snow, and their first game of the season was slated for this Friday, which has been postponed. The team's first game of the season is now scheduled for April 9. And though the playoffs start in early June, Westfield head coach Doug Kaltenbach still feels it is too early to worry, but noted he will press the panic button if this week was anything like last week.
In fact, Kaltenbach, who has a young team this season, enjoys being able to practice in a gym the first week or two of the season.
"I always tell them the most enjoyable part is being inside," he said. "We try to make the best out of it. I think last year was the oddity, totally. We were outside almost the entire time. Personally, it sounds great, but I do like being in the gym the first few weeks. You can teach more in the gym and you work on the fundamentals. When you're outside, everyone is concerned how far they can throw the ball or how far they can hit the ball. You get away from the little things."
On the flip side, it is important to get outside before the opening game so players can see live pitching and field grounders and fly balls.
"There are so many situations you can't simulate in a gym," he said. "That's what worries me. My team has five freshmen on it. They are still 13 years old. They have never seen pitching on the varsity level. That's what worries me. It takes the end of May to get going, and then you're almost done."
Meanwhile, Fredonia used last year's warm weather to play a few scrimmages.
Like Kaltenbach, Fredonia coach Vince Gullo also likes using the first few weeks in the gym to work on the basics of the game.
"There is good and bad," he said to getting outside early. "You miss all the fundamentals and go right to batting practice. It was a pleasure to be outside last year, but we had to backtrack. This year we are working on fundamentals. We have canceled two scrimmages already and it's pretty frustrating."
With games already being postponed, there are weeks teams will be playing four games in five days or even five games in five days. When that happens, depth at pitching will be vital. Fortunately for the Hillbillies, they are deep at that position.
"You're going to need the depth," Gullo said. "If you can play four games a week and come out on top, you have a good team. Most teams have one strong pitcher. I feel we have five strong pitchers this year."
Kaltenbach noted if the weather is 39 degrees and sunny this week, his team will be outside. Gullo added getting outside soon is vital.
"You can only take so many ground balls off the gym floor and batting practice in a cage," he said. "Eventually, we have to get outside and run the bases and do things that baseball is about."
Craig Harvey is the OBSERVER?Sports Editor.?Send comments to cha firstname.lastname@example.org.