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Steve Christilaw: Baseball season means spring, despite all that snow and ice

The Facebook post said it all.

Over the weekend a post from The Spokesman-Review called for an accumulation of roughly 8 inches of snow by Monday, and the poster added the comment: “We’re very, very sorry.”

Thanks. I needed that belly laugh.

You see, Monday is an important day in the year for me. It’s the official first day of spring.

Yeah, I know the spring equinox is March 20 and that’s still the better part of three weeks away. I’m not referring to that.

Monday was the day the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association sets as the first day of spring sports practice. It annually falls on the Monday before the start of the state basketball tournaments.

For the baseball fan, it’s New Year’s weekend.

Spring training games began in Florida and Arizona on Saturday.

And Monday morning, bright and early, I was huddled in front of my television watching the Baltimore Orioles play a Grapefruit League game. I had an extra blanket handy and a big pot of coffee brewed. And it was time for baseball.

They announced that it was 83 degrees in Sarasota, Florida. They said something about the humidity, but I stopped listening after they said “83 degrees.”

It was snowing outside my window. It was freezing outside my window. I offered to let the dog out, and she gave me a dirty look and went back to bed.

But baseball was back.

Locally, however, it was a different story.

Local baseball and softball fields were a white-covered wasteland.

Mother Nature thinks it’s a joke, I’m sure, but it really is a bad break for kids hoping to land a spot on their high school team. Those first few – precious few – turnouts are reserved for tryouts. Having to demonstrate your baseball skills indoors and on a gym floor is just not the way the game was designed.

But there’s really no other choice.

To try to play outside would be foolhardy.

First, instead of baseball cleats you’d need a set of shoe chains just to stay upright. Unless you’re shagging flies in the snow-covered outfield. In that case you’d need a set of snowshoes and a St. Bernard.

To be frank, my hands still ring from taking batting practice in the cold of an early high school baseball turnout.

It’s a phenomenon that happens in the cold. If you don’t square up the baseball, the bat vibrates in your hand. Painfully. It’s enough to make you look forward to bunt drills.

About the only baseball skill that is even remotely compatible would be sliding drills. Then again, you would slide into second base and not stop until you hit the berms in the parking lot.

About the only positive news on that first day of high school baseball turnouts was that those 8 inches of snow never materialized.

But there’s more in the forecast. More snow. More rain.

Thankfully the temperature is supposed to hover somewhere above freezing, but it doesn’t appear to be enough to melt that accumulated snow and ice off the infield.

Baseball and softball coaches are the high school equivalent of the jack-of-all-trades. Yes, they have to know how to run infield drills and fill out a lineup card, but they also need to understand weather reports and have a strong knowledge of advanced lawn care.

There isn’t a local baseball coach, or softball coach for that matter, who isn’t waiting anxiously for the day the snow finally leaves and the day the frost layer that sits just under the surface of the field finally thaws. You see, all that snow melt needs somewhere to drain away. An intact frost layer keeps it from being absorbed into the ground to help the grass grow.

At the rate we’re going, you’re significantly more apt to have to fire up your snowblower than your lawnmower.

Meanwhile, I attempt to stay warm by watching games from Arizona.

Monday there was a beat writer covering the Mariners complaining about the fact that they had a little rain. They had to move the game up an hour and still the precipitation forced them to call the game after seven innings.

I believe the word he used was “inclement.”

Wimp.