By JAMES COOK
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Punxsutawney Phil got outside once this spring already.
That’s more than the baseball and softball teams can say.
The prognosticating rodent didn’t see his shadow on Feb. 2, predicting an early spring. Epic fail.
Athletic directors all across Michigan, especially in the northern areas, are scrambling to reschedule events as winter drags on.
“The challenge now is the puzzle pieces and how you move it around,” TC Central athletic director Inglis said. “The reality is that you may have to look at a non-conference game to cancel to get this one in.”
Thus far, schools have lost almost all of three weeks of games. TC Central has played only one spring varsity game — Saturday’s girls soccer contest against the Traverse City Liberty at the Coast Guard fields. And that game was played on the B field in a mixture of rain, sleet and hail.
“You either embrace it, or it’ll drive you crazy,” Inglis said. “That’s the attitude I think you have to have.”
Mancelona’s baseball field was covered in snow even before the most recent dump of white stuff Tuesday night. Onekama called off Friday’s big — and perhaps aptly named — Frostbite Invitational. Petoskey moved its Big North Conference soccer opener against Ogemaw Heights to May 17. Johannesburg-Lewiston has already started postponing games next week. Glen Lake canceled track, softball, baseball and soccer games this week — and some will not be rescheduled.
TC West is scheduled to host Division 3 and 4 baseball and softball quarterfinals on June 11. Perhaps by then, the Titans field will be dry.
“As a joke, when (MHSAA assistant director) Mark Uyl contacted me and said, ‘Would you do it?’ — that was in February — I responded to him and I said, ‘Well, if the snow is ever off the ground, we’d be happy to host it,’” West athletic director Patti Tibaldi said. “Now I’m wondering if the fields will be (ready) by then.”
Wednesday’s rivalry soccer game between Central and West was postponed after overnight snow blanketed the Coast Guard fields. Tuesday’s West at Cadillac game was also postponed.
“It’s very unusual to reschedule soccer,” Tibaldi said. “We’re in a pinch with soccer. Cadillac’s field was unplayable Tuesday and we had to reschedule. It took us a loooong time to find a date.”
Both Central and West are up against the MHSAA’s three-game-a-week soccer limit, so Wednesday’s postponement might mean one or both schools could have to cancel a non-conference game to fit it in. The West-Cadillac game moved to May 20, the third date on which it’s been scheduled.
Inglis contacted Midland to let the Chemics know there’s a possibility the Coast Guard fields might not be playable for Saturday’s game.
At TC West, the gym is booked up after school with baseball, softball, track and soccer all training inside. Some teams at Central have tired of that and are now starting to call off some practices as well.
“There’s only so much you can do inside the gym for a spring sport,” Inglis said. “Batting cages and ground balls on the gym floor are simply not the same as being outside.”
The only time the baseball and softball teams have practiced outside weren’t actually practices. They were for field maintenance and clean-up.
“The most optimistic date I can say is April 29,” Tibaldi said of when the Titans could host an athletic event at their own facilities. “That’s my most optimistic. And I’m not sure about that.”
The West side has more snow than over at Central, where the varsity baseball field is still not playable in part because of the shade from trees. The Trojans’ softball diamond at Thirlby Field is also not ready to play on.
“They already had snow before this latest snow on the West side,” Inglis said. “The good thing is as a district, we are able to share fields. So if that means our fields are ready, we certainly will work together to get their kids on our fields and vice versa, if needed.”
Today’s baseball and softball games against league foe Ogemaw Heights are already canceled. There’s no rules in regular-season baseball and softball about how many times a team can play per week, but trying to limit pitchers’ innings makes it difficult to schedule too many hardball games in a short span.
Inglis said 14 athletic events were canceled just from Monday and Tuesday.
Potentially, the only TC Central athletic event that will be played this week is girls tennis today — and that’s because it’s at an indoor facility in Midland. This Saturday’s Northwest Michigan Invitational at Central may be entirely moved to Jenison in order to save it, because the Trojans don’t have any other open Saturdays that it could be moved to.
Track, tennis and lacrosse regionals are five weeks away.
“Eventually, the sun is going to shine,” Inglis said. “That’s when we have to be ready.”