Twenty Games in Forty Days: Baseball and Softball Adapt to Schedule Changes

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Colleen O'Connor

A week from the start of practices, Eldracker field still had over a foot of snow on the field on March 10.
A week from the start of practices, Eldracher field still had over a foot of snow on the field on March 10.

snow

Snow.

To almost every resident of Massachusetts, this word has become the dirtiest four-letter word in the book this winter. Due to an unprecedented, record-breaking 108.6 inches of snow and six snow days this year, the snow has become even more of a problem now than when it started falling.

“Normally, there’s about 12 inches of frost on the baseball fields when the season starts,” said Athletic Director and Baseball Head Coach Bill Tompkins. “This year, there’s more like 40-48 inches of frost. That’s almost four times the normal amount.”

Even though all teams are affected to a degree by the snow, Baseball and Softball are the two most directly affected because they play their games on Eldracher Field and Chauncey Smith Field, both grass fields partially shaded by a treeline.  Because of these snow-covered fields, Walpole Softball has their first scheduled game on April 20 at home against Bridgewater-Raynham, while Walpole Baseball plays on April 18 at Mansfield.  In other words, the teams have a month of pre-season practices before their first game; then, they have five and a half weeks to play twenty games.

The two teams spend their entire practice in the gym or running laps in the parking lot for conditioning drills, but they have not gotten much practice with the mechanics. Coach Tompkins even had his athletes start shoveling out Eldracher Field once the temperatures rose and the snow started to melt.

“Although we are hoping to get some time out on the turf and any other outdoor space that we can, that still may take a few weeks,” said Softball Head Coach Rachael Sprague. “I’ve ordered some new training equipment so that we can get creative with our drills indoors.”

On March 17, the MIAA met and made the executive decision to move the regular season cutoff date back a week to make it easier for both coaches and athletes to schedule and play as many games as possible.

Most teams have elected to push back the start of their seasons by two weeks or more now that a decision has been made, especially Baseball and Softball, two teams that now don’t start until the first weekend of April Vacation. To make up for lost time, many teams will have to play more games a week than athletes are used to.

“Once we start playing games, we could end up having double headers, more than four games a week, etc. so having another week after Memorial Day will give us a little more room to breathe because we’ll be able to schedule makeup games that week,” said Coach Sprague.

The MIAA’s inaction on the subject until recently makes it harder for coaches to pick varsity rosters, as coaches had no idea whether or not to expect to play their first game until recently. They waited until the season had started to make the call, stalling preparation for a sports season that now, for most teams, will not start for a few weeks.

“The MIAA should have made a decision by now,” said Coach Tompkins. “This is something that hasn’t happened in the 42 years I’ve been here. There’s too much snow to plow off the fields.”

Though this winter has officially been deemed the snowiest winter in Boston and still feels like it hasn’t ended, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The temperatures are slowly rising, the snow is melting faster than people thought it would.  While the MIAA change provides some flexibility for game-scheduling, coaches will need to adapt to the twenty games over forty days.

“Everyone is in the same boat,” said Coach Sprague. “It only makes sense to push the season back. We are going to be scrambling to make up all of these early season games over vacations, weekends, and in May.”