By RJ Walters / Daily News Sports Editor
As published in the Hillsdale Daily News on April 22
A spring sports schedule that was created with plenty of love and care by coaches and athletic directors has quickly become a sloppy mishmash of rainouts and makeup dates.
On Tuesday alone more than 20 baseball and softball games involving local teams were called off thanks to Michigan weather that was rainy one minute, sunny the next, and hailing not 15 minutes later.
Some area schools have already crossed out four regularly scheduled dates, and it’s not even May, meaning people such as Jonesville athletic director Kathy Bondsteel are left with tough decisions and plenty of extra phone calls to their counterparts.
The Comet baseball and softball teams were supposed to host Quincy Tuesday, but for the third time this season the Jonesville teams were unable to play. Bondsteel said the decision to call off a game is always a difficult one because sometimes “it’s like rolling the dice” because the weather could actually get better, but timely decisions have to be made for the sake of all parties involved, including players, parents, bus drivers and officials.
“This year is the worst as far as weather since I’ve been here and it’s only three weeks into our seasons,” she said. “It’s Michigan, snow one day and 80 degrees the next, what else can you say?”
She said she follows a certain protocol every time a Comets’ home game is threatened by weather, and it usually works out for the better.
First she contacts the school’s groundskeeper to see how the field is raking up and holding water, before going over and giving the field a once-over on her own.
If it looks like it’s in bad shape she will call the scheduled opponents’ AD to see if their field is in playable condition. Even if that is the case, it doesn’t mean the Comets are automatically taking a road trip. Bondsteel said the costs of an extra bus trip and other little expenses have to be considered.
The final step, at around noon or 1 p.m. usually, is looking at the local forecast to see what the weather is supposed to be doing mid-afternoon and determining whether or not it could possibly put the athletes at risk.
When asked about the possibility of baseball and softball switching to the fall and bringing football, a sport that plays in everything but lightning storms, to the spring season Bondsteel just laughed and said, “Fans love going to football on fall nights honey, and we all need their support at the gates to run our programs.”
Hillsdale High School head baseball coach Chris Adams, echoed that sentiment saying the “MHSAA would never do that…it’s football season.”
Adams also said an idea to start the baseball and softball seasons a little later, with the state tournaments wrapping up in late June has been thrown around by the MHSAA, but he doesn’t fully buy it as a viable option.
“Then you’d have a chance at getting some better weather more consistently, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said. “With the economy the way it is kids want to be making some money at jobs during the summer, and a lot of coaches are teachers, and they need a break to recharge their battery before getting back at it.”
His Hornet boys have missed three game dates so far this season and were forced to practice in the gym Monday and Tuesday instead of butting heads with Quincy and Albion.
Adams said the kids get tired of practicing after a while and he tries to keep it light and fun when rainouts strike.
“That’s why sometimes on rainouts we do what I call the ‘hit and get’. You go in the gym, hit for a while and get out of there,” he said. “The kids are frustrated, the coaches are frustrated and we all just want to play, but it’s just the nature of the beast with Michigan weather.”
Weather can also play a factor in a team’s pitching rotation, especially in how a coach is looking to set up his staff for an entire week.
Adams said Monday’s rainout actually helped because it afforded his players, and especially his pitchers, an extra day of rest, after doubleheaders on Thursday and Friday last week. But with cancellations piling up and a 37-game schedule to try and fit in, Adams said some games may just go by the wayside.
“We’re trying to get Vandercook Lake rescheduled and I was already talking with Brett Allman at Quincy about making up Monday’s games, but I don’t think we’ll ever see the Jonesville doubleheader, and in the league we don’t have any scheduled rain dates,” he said.
Thankfully for Bondsteel and other Big Eight ADs the league has one built-in rain date and they don’t play double-headers regularly, so they can just turn the second half of the conference schedule into two-game events to make up for it.
According to Weather.com, Wednesday could be yet another glum day for games scheduled to be held in Hillsdale County, but Thursday and Friday are looking dry and sunny — at least for now.