Oswego spring sports face uphill battle

OSWEGO — Athletes who belong to an intercollegiate sports team at Oswego State differ from the rest of the pack.

Home to 24 Div. III sports teams, Oswego is no stranger to prestigious athletic programs. Of course, being a college athlete has its perks: Participating in a team sport grants players instant acceptance into their peer groups that conicides with a swagger not easily fazed. But poor weather conditions leaves athletes having to overcome even more adversity.

The instant fanbase may be one of many perks that come along with being a part of an athletic program on campus, but inclement weather leaves many teams frustrated. Various cancellations and postponed games only act as a barrier, preventing any sort of momentum from accruing.

“It’s always tough dealing with the wind, snow and cold weather,” said Brian Hamilton, junior infielder for the baseball team. “Thankfully, we have Romney Field House. We’re able to hit, throw, run infield drills, participate in live scrimmages and work on a game plan and strategies — basically everything a baseball team needs to work on.”

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Hamilton, who helped lead the No. 2 Lakers (27–11, 14–4) to the SUNYAC Championship game against top-seeded Cortland, explained how Romney’s indoor facility limits the team’s outfielders from fly ball action. And by no stretch of the imagination is the turf surface at Romney similar to the likes of an authentic grass field.

Although the field house is a great facility that allows teams the opportunity to shield themselves from harsh weather conditions, every spring sports team is in need of its services. And that tends to complicate things.

“There will be times when we won’t have access to Romney Field House until the evening because the women’s team has to practice,” said men’s tennis head coach Rob Friske about multiple teams needing time slots for the indoor facility. “On any given night, players won’t get back from practice until 11 p.m. because that’s the only time we can get our athletes in there to practice.”

Yet the men’s and women’s tennis teams aren’t affected nearly as much as the baseball, softball and track and field programs — a team that has to travel an hour and a half to Rochester Institute of Technology College for every “home” event, while the softball program indicates exactly what a lack of indoor facilities results in: A sub-.500 record.

The Laker ladies, who began their season with a 3–4 overall record through the first seven matches, went on to lose 15 games in a row and finished their season with a 5–21 overall record. The women’s program has taken a turn for the worst statistically speaking, having gone from a 17–20 overall record in 2013, to 9–18 in 2014.

Freshman Naomi Rodriguez-Jose just finished her first season as a member of the softball squad and recalls her experience as “definitely one she’ll remember.”

“Overall, I had a fun time being on my first college team,” Rodriguez-Jose said with a smile. “The only thing I wish is that we had some other facility we could use. Romney is great, but you field the ball differently indoors.”

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In response to the lack of facilities available for spring sport programs, Oswego is in the midst of building a 225- by 360-foot all-weather synthetic turf complex. The stadium, complete with press box, bleachers and full lighting will across the street from Sheldon Avenue and Romney Field House, between the softball and soccer fields. Set to open in Fall 2015, the $2.37 million facility offers turf fields with underground drainage pipes installed, ensuring drier fields. Unfortunately, it’s outdoors — still not fully addressing inclement weather.

Even still, coaches and players around campus are thrilled to see another building designated for Oswego athletics.

“The turf field is definitely something that we need to better prepare for opponents,” said men’s lacrosse head coach David Bezek on the new complex. “Romney is great to get some work in, but that surface is too small for us to run some of our larger formations.”

Bezek went on to explain how games on turf are played at a faster pace.

“The ball moves quicker, bounces differently, and from a player’s health perspective, it’s much safer than the grass we play on currently,” Bezek said. “We’ll still practice on grass when the situation calls for it.”

The new stadium will become the new — and much-needed — permanent home to Oswego’s track and field, lacrosse and soccer teams. Unaffected by the facility, tennis player Ian Pauchard said “Although I’m graduating, it’s nice to see my school benefit from something like this. There are teams that will benefit tremendously from this turf field, and I’m just looking forward to seeing our teams improve.”

Oswego still doesn’t have an answer to poor weather and its effect on spring sports. Without an indoor facility to fully take advantage of, it’s hard to imagine a championship title banner being raised in honor of either the baseball or softball teams.

Until then, spring sports will continue to battle adversity.

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