Since the 1970s, Aileen Durrant has served as a Section II softball assigner, so she knows the drill: For the first few weeks of every season, her schedule of umpires assigned to games is more a rough draft than a final copy.
“Everything just keeps changing,” she said Friday at the close of another week in which Section II baseball and softball teams struggled against Mother Nature. Earlier this week, the Suburban Council announced a second wave of league-wide postponements and now plans to have its first games April 9 — a full week after its original start date.
Most local leagues are in a similar situation and are hoping to start at the end of next week, while teams in late-starting leagues have seen non-league games postponed.
“This has been an extended winter that has really jammed up the start of our season. There’s light at the end of the tunnel because our fields are drying out, but this has been the worst I can remember,” said Shenendehowa baseball head coach Greg Christodulu, whose team’s field is still unplayable.
Rico Frese, head coach at Maple Hill and Section II baseball coordinator, said a delay to start his sport’s season is nothing new; most years, the spring season sees its first scheduled games pushed back. And those around the area are used to it.
“Guys have been around the block. This isn’t the first time we’ve had it happen,” he said. “I just plow ahead.”
Frese meant that figuratively, but many ball clubs — his included — have spent practice time this spring uncovering their fields. Some fields, however, have maintenance issues that go beyond a group of teenagers with shovels.
Fonda-Fultonville Athletic Director Eric Wilson has baseball and softball games scheduled on his team’s home fields Thursday and Friday. His baseball field, he said, has snow all around home plate and lining its dugouts. Meanwhile, he estimated his softball field has a couple feet of snow left on it.
“So, they’re in even worse shape right now,” said Wilson, who added his school is still on track to play host to its annual steeplechase/pentathlon meet Thursday.
Some baseball and softball teams have been able to find places to scrimmage or have the ability to hold workouts in either gymnasiums or indoor sports facilities. Christodulu said his Plainsmen spent their first two weeks of practices at The Sports Barn in Halfmoon and also were one of a few area teams to take a trip south to get in some controlled scrimmages. Of course, Shenendehowa’s trip to Maryland was for naught; bad weather followed the team’s bus, and the Plainsmen returned home without getting to play an inning.
“Even that trip was blown up with the weather,” Christodulu said.
Durrant said she has learned not to get frustrated with early-season postponements; she expects teams to be playing with regularity by April 15. If she is correct, Section II baseball and softball squads will have roughly five weeks — rather than the originally scheduled seven — to complete their 20-game regular seasons before the May 18 postseason seeding meeting.
That time crunch will create headaches for coaches and players, but that’s just part of the game for area ballclubs.
“We’ll get our seasons in, but we live in the Northeast, not Florida,” Durrant said.
The latter location is where Section II softball coordinator Cathy Allen is at the moment. With a chuckle, the longtime section coordinator said she will deal with the postponement fallout when she makes it back to upstate New York.
“Right now,” she said, “I’m on my way to the beach.”