Disabato: Southland baseball teams growing frustrated waiting out the weather
By Pat Disabato email@example.com Twitter: @disabato March 27, 2013 11:00PM
St. Rita's baseball field on March 14, two days before its season opener. | Supplied photo
Updated: April 29, 2013 11:18AM
Baseball is a game meant to be played outdoors — ideally amid sunshine, warm breezes and sounds of “Hey, batter, batter” echoing from mouths of infielders trying to disrupt a hitter’s concentration.
Gymnasiums, on the other hand, are constructed to house basketball, volleyball, badminton and wrestling matches.
But with Mother Nature producing an unseasonably cold and wet start to the spring season, most local high school baseball teams have become begrudgingly familiar with their respective school’s gym.
Way too familiar, in fact.
I can relate. I remember taking grounders off the gym floor, working on baserunning drills and taking batting practice in cages in the balcony of Eisenhower High School — at 6 a.m. That went on day after day until Mother Nature felt like turning up the temperature, allowing us to finally make our way outdoors.
Good times, indeed.
There comes a time, though, when the daily indoor practices grow stale, causing players to go stir crazy. Again, I speak from experience on this matter.
It’s easy to say frustration is building among players who have had their season delayed. Like waiting to take a cut on a hanging breaking ball, they must remain patient.
“Yeah, the kids are going out of their minds,” Lincoln-Way North coach Joe Skarbek said. “They’re tired of practicing and practicing indoors. They want to play some games.
“It’s frustrating. The weather has been absurd. I just keep telling them to relax and that we’re going to make up the games.”
North’s frustration is understandable. The Phoenix were tabbed the preseason No. 1 by this publication. The boys are eager to show the rest of the competition they’re worthy of the distinction.
“We look great,” Skarbek said. “But it’s indoor practice. There’s nothing we can do about it. The weather is way out of our control.”
There are many things a coach can control. The weather isn’t one of them. Tom Skilling isn’t a match for Mother Nature.
Sandburg is in the same position as Lincoln-Way North. Not a single game played entering Wednesday. Heck, the No. 6 Eagles have practiced outside just a couple of times. Coach Jim Morsovillo is sensing his players are disgruntled.
“Our field is soaked and it’s been freezing outside,” said Morsovillo, who’s entering his second year as coach. “We’ve had some real good practices for about a month. But we’ve only been able to practice outside twice. We’re ready to go. The kids are anxious to play or at least get outside some. But we’re forced to go back into the gym again and again.
“Last year we were playing already. The weather was nice. But we don’t want to force things right now. With the way the weather is and getting somebody hurt. Once the weather turns, we’re going to play so many in a row the guys are going to want a break.”
That will be good news to teams with an abundance of pitching and trying times for those who lack arms.
Last year’s weather was an aberration. The temperature in the early part of the season reached nearly 90 degrees, making it feel more like July than March. We were spoiled.
Most days the temperature hasn’t made it beyond 40.
That hasn’t prevented No. 3 St. Rita, though, from playing six games. The Mustangs have played every game at home.
That’s not by accident. St. Rita coach Mike Zunica spent countless hours preparing his field the week of March 11.
“We got some weight (wide-tired tractor) on the field and brought all the water to the surface,” Zunica said. “Then we sponged it up with Duraplay. Our field is in excellent condition.”
Zunica didn’t know exactly the number of bags of Duraplay he used, but it exceeded 100. He spent in excess of 20 hours working on his field to get it primed for the season.
On March 16, the Mustangs hosted Oak Lawn in their season opener and registered the first of six straight wins.
“Just about every team we’ve played it’s been their season opener,” Zunica said.
The smile adorning Oak Forest outfielder Brian Richard’s face Tuesday pretty much summed up the sensation of playing a game outdoors, even if the temperature hovered 40 degrees.
Beyond the fact Richard clubbed a two-run homer to help the Bengals win their season opener 6-4 over Andrew, the junior was overjoyed to experience daylight and finally compete against someone other than his own teammates.
“Oh, my God,” Richard said. “We’ve been out once all year. We haven’t seen any live pitching up until (Tuesday). It just felt great to come out and play baseball.”