Spring weather — Coaches learn to adjust
We’ve all been
through it before
Minnesotans talk a lot about the weather.
But in recent weeks, Minnesotans who are involved in high school spring sports have been talking A LOT about the weather.
Cold. Wet fields. Frost not out. Snowfalls. Rain.
But really, has it been THAT bad?
I turned to four longtime area coaches.
"This is the longest time we have spent indoors before the start of the baseball season in my 20 years of coaching baseball at Kenyon-Wanamingo," said Randy Hockinson.
"We have had only two days of outdoor work outs on a practice field and we (did) not step on our game field until our first home game (Tuesday)."
Mabel-Canton golf coach Pat Wiltgen said, "We (held) our first meet (Monday) and (had) only been outside for two hours. The course opened Monday, which is really rather late for us.
"It’s not unheard of to not have played at all yet but usually we've been out there playing and shivering before this.
"Before I coached golf I coached baseball and umped baseball and softball and have done more than my share of shivering and teeth chattering. But the snow hanging around so long making it impossible to go out and shake, rattle, and roll in the cool Minnesota spring is just unusual."
"It is frustrating but probably not all that unusual," Hayfield girls track and field coach Deb Harvey said. "Sometime in the late ‘80's, we had a meet cancelled on April 25 due to 8 inches of snow."
"We have been spoiled in the last five to seven years," Houston softball coach Pete Peterson said.
"Many of the programs have improved, with players and coaches putting in off-season time, especially pitchers. They are far more anxious to get outside and get a return on their efforts.
"This was simply an ‘old-fashioned Midwest winter.’’’
Those are some slightly different takes, but remember each sport has somewhat different concerns with weather and field conditions. And these four coaches represent some diversity of geography and terrain in about a 40-mile radius of Rochester.
Data for the past 12 springs is readily available and within that time frame, 2008 has thrown a confluence of factors at area teams that has kept them from getting outside much until Monday.
March was noticeably below average in temperature, with no day over 49, and only three nights when the thermometer didn’t dip below freezing. There were 9 inches of snow, including 3 on March 21.
So frost had no chance to come out. Then lots of rain in the first 13 days of April added to the problem of moisture on fields that had had virtually no good drying weather.
Going back to 1997, each of the late-March-to-mid-April periods had some stretch of warm weather (at least mid-50s), sometimes into the 70s or even the 80s, by April 15.
This year, March’s warmest reading was 49 (on the 13th!) and three warm days April 4-6 were quickly followed by eight straight below-normal days.
Maybe things are looking up. Tuesday it was 61 degrees, and the forecast is for highs of at least 55 for the next seven days.
That’s music to the ears of Harvey, who remembers last week’s meet in Stewartville.
"It wasn't raining when we got there," she said. "Early during the field events, it started to rain and then snow. By the time we were done, slush was accumulating on the bleachers and the grass was white.
"Despite that, I never heard one of the kids complain."
And Hockinson alluded to other parts of the state that got up to 2 feet of snow recently.
"It is hard to complain when the northern teams will have to wait longer than us to start their outdoor season."
Craig Swalboski is sports editor for the Post-Bulletin. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org