Members of the Warrensburg High School Varsity Baseball team take a break April 1 from shovelling off the baseball diamond behind the elementary school where they are to begin playing games soon. Courtesy photo
Lingering winter weather has caused ballfields in northern Warren County to remain covered in snow, curtailing outdoor practice for area high school ball teams — and downsizing the season’s schedule dramatically.
Most baseball and softball teams in the Adirondack League will be playing 11 sanctioned games this season, rather than the 16 that had been scheduled — playing each team in the league once, rather than twice. In addition, the Adirondack League championship will be determined by the best season record rather than a playoff of the top teams.
Meanwhile, team practices have been held in gymnasiums rather than outside, with the ballfields covered with up to several feet of snow, area coaches said early this week.
Warrensburg High School’s baseball team has perhaps the most dramatic problem with snow. The high school baseball field, located behind the school, is surrounded with tall pine trees which block the sunlight from melting snow during the few warmer days experienced here in the early-spring weeks, Varsity Baseball coach Rex Reynolds said April 6.
“We don’t have any real hopes of playing on our baseball field until the third week of May,” he said, noting that even if the snow cover melts soon, there’s bound to be too much mud for practice and games. “There’s snow two feet deep remaining, with ice underneath — and the snow is up to three feet deep in left field.”
In the meantime, games — which are now scheduled to start Wednesday April 23 — are to be played on the Junior Varsity field behind Warrensburg Elementary School.
Practices have been held inside the high school gym, with a batting cage, and six hitting stations complete with with pop-up nets and batting tees and a mock infield set up for some throwing and catching drills. The baseball team has also been concentrating on strength and conditioning work, including running up and down stairs and through the hallways of the elementary school.
On several of the warmer days, the players have been practicing in the elementary school’s parking lots, catching fly balls and tossing long throws. The back parking lot is large enough for a full-size infield, he said.
To gain access earlier to the game field at the elementary school, Warrensburg baseball players have spent a session or two shovelling snow off the field. They’ve shoveled holes several feet wide down to the turf, and these spots absorb the sunlight and re-radiate heat into the snow cover to speed up the snow-melting process, Reynolds said.
“We expect that our team’s shoveling gets us onto the field a week to 10 days earlier,” he said. “The players do this as an annual ritual, and the kids look forward to it.”
Reynolds noted that his team is working hard in practice to make up for the talented players lost to graduation in 2013, and the absence of veteran catcher Nick Perrone, who had to quit because of a torn ACL in one of his knees — stemming from a basketball injury earlier this year.
“Our team’s prospects are really up in the air because we lost some real offense and tough defense,” Reynolds said. “Hopefully, we’ll be competitive.”
About 12 miles north in Chestertown, the North Warren ball players are also dealing with snow-covered ballfields. As of April 4, the baseball field had about 5 inches of snow and a sheet of ice on top of the turf, North Warren baseball coach Josh Gifford said Sunday.
“We’re hoping that with the rain we’re supposed to get later this week, the fields open up a little bit,” he said.
Meanwhile, the school’s ball teams have been practicing in the school gym, hitting off a pitching machine in batting cages, as well as throwing the ball around.
Gifford noted that North Warren’s baseball team was to have its first game April 9 against Heatly High School on their field near Troy, where snow has been melting far earlier.
“Regardless of the snow, and not practicing on our field, we’ll be prepared,” he predicted, adding that the team members have been lifting weights and conditioning with diligence. “Our students have put a lot of hard work into getting ready this season.”