AROUND THE NEK -- Baseball and Softball are the runt of litter. That is when it comes to Vermont outdoor athletics. No sport is effected more so than baseball and softball when it comes to missing games and shortened seasons due to the Vermont climate. Around most of the Northeast Kingdom mother nature has delayed the start of the season because of wet field conditions. But this isn’t a new trend by any means. It is common enough that change might be in the air for high school baseball and softball teams in the future.
Lyndon Institute and Saint Johnsbury Academy are among some of the local teams who have had to reschedule baseball and softball games already. Their fields are still saturated, leaving them with little opportunity to get out to practice on them. In fact, the LI softball team hasn’t gotten outside to practice at all. LI Athletic Director Paul Wheeler isn’t too concerned about the delayed start to the season. “It’s not really a lot different than the normal time. We’re going to end up being maybe a week later, but we’re not two or three weeks behind.” LI canceled their home games yesterday along with scrimmages that were supposed to have taken place in weeks prior. Saint Johnsbury Academy hasn’t faired much better as they have already canceled their home opener that was scheduled for this weekend. David McGinn, Saint Johsbury Academy’s Athletic Director, wasn’t anticipating this late of a start to the season. “This is the latest I’ve ever experienced in 30 plus years of doing it.” Both teams have been able to reschedule the games, that they had to cancel, later in the season.
This year is a far cry from the last, when teams had already played a handful of games at this point in the season. But as McGinn recalls, that was unusual. “Last year we were out on March 31st. Which was the first time that I’ve ever had teams out in march, and that was the last day. So it’s just the nature of life.” Wheeler agreed that that was uncharacteristic of the area. “The fact of the matter is last year we sort of got spoiled because we were out on the fields on the 30th of March. I think we played a couple of scrimmages the first week of April, and we didn’t get that late snow.”
The LI baseball team was able to fit in one scrimmage earlier this week. Most local teams however, still haven’t had the opportunity to get acquainted with the playing surface again. LI will play its first game of the season this weekend at Milton. Wheeler is optimistic about the idea of playing a game without having practiced on a field regularly. “It’s going to be a little different for us playing Saturday without having been out.”
It is this lack of time with proper field conditions that has the state leaning towards a shorter standard season for baseball and softball. “There are some rumblings and some discussions about cutting the season back a little bit by a game or two. Just because it’s so difficult in the area we live in to get 16 baseball and softball games in”, Wheeler said.
Both LI and Saint Johnsbury Academy should be able to practice on their fields by next week. Neither athletic director plans on having any more games moved due to this issue. Baseball and softball season is here, sort of.