Allegedly, spring started March 21.
Anyone living in Northeast Ohio knows the weather gods all but laugh at such an arbitrary deadline.
I know, putting up the headline “Ohio suffers lousy weather in early Spring” is about as much of a news flash as “Water found to be wet.”
That said, as you curse the weather gods casually after this cold, snowy winter, spare a thought for those who are really at the mercy of the weather gods: High school baseball and softball players.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s calendar marks opening day for baseball, softball and track as March 29. Teams are allowed to scrimmage before then.
While some of the giant snow mounds over local baseball fields may have melted, there’s still a ton of moisture in those fields — and real spring rains haven’t even hit yet.
So, unless you have a professional grounds crew at your stadium — and enough drying agent to turn the Amazon into the Sahara — I’m betting it will be nigh-on impossible to play ball before April Fool’s Day.
In fact, Frank Aceto and I have put the over/under for regular game play this spring at about Easter (April 20).
Once again, this is nothing veteran high school baseball coaches aren’t used to in these parts.
Typical attire for coaches on the basepaths includes winter coats, gloves and earmuffs for the first three weeks of the season.
Some coaches have revealed they kept their pitchers on pitch counts early in the season not only to save their arms but also their fingers.
Apparently, it’s a bit hard to throw a proper curveball when your digits are numb from the cold.
What about trying to hit an inside fastball in cold weather?
More than one player have told me that, even with the new BBCOR bats, hitting a ball off the barrel of the bat feels like taking a bat across the forearms.
The fact that cold, wet weather in Ohio has a tendency to linger into mid-May only exacerbates the situation.
So often, a baseball or softball team’s actual schedule ends up being two games in the first week of April and one game in the second week of April, followed by six games in a five-day span in early May.
It just comes with the territory.
Every longtime baseball and softball person in this area has a few good weather stories.
I remember a playoff game with Walsh Jesuit softball a few years ago at Kent State University.
After one good inning, a monsoon seemed to hit. The wind was so fierce that, while the players attempted to put the tarp down, it was blown all the way to Summit Street.
Then, there was the time a few years ago when I took refuge in the dugout at Hudson’s softball field in a game against Stow-Munroe Falls.
We hoped a sudden deluge of rain would blow over quickly.
The coaches gave up that hope once home plate became covered by an inch of water.
However, my best weather story comes from about a decade ago, when I was on my way to Water Works Park to cover Cuyahoga Falls baseball.
After about a week of steady rain, it was a beautiful day and I went to Falls’ home field, hoping they would get in a make-up game.
Keep in mind, this is back in the days before the Munroe Falls were lowered.
I pulled into the lower parking lot at Water Works Park … and noticed that I was driving through water.
The parking lot, the main road and Cuyahoga Falls’ home field had all become part of the Cuyahoga River.
OK, that’s a slight exaggeration — it’s was the junior varsity field that had become part of the Cuyahoga.
It was at that point that I realized, “I better make sure I’m flexible when it comes to covering baseball games.”
To those boys and girls of summer stuck in the gym and batting cages, don’t worry, spring will come.
For right now, though, stay inside.
Old Man Winter must be a baseball fan. He likes to stick around during the early season.