Dreadful winters lead to spring troubles

Looking up at the sky, the first white flakes come innocently fluttering down in early November, yet they won’t stop until at least April.

A winter in Oswego will challenge even the most winter-savvy person, there is simply nothing like it. Shrouded in gloomy gray clouds for what seems like an eternity, “the home of lake effect snow,” never lets up. To the casual sports fan, it can be compared to Green Bay’s frozen tundra.

The beginning of April is supposed to mark the start of warm weather, but not in upstate New York, especially Oswego. The lacrosse, tennis, softball and baseball teams have put in months of work inside. Now they want to play games, yet they don’t have the facilities to do so.

The 2015 winter season was one of the most intense and longest lasting winters to date. Nearly all of the sports watched as their first five, even 10 games were cancelled or moved to neutral locations due to weather.

“For lacrosse, we can’t plow our fields. In 2014 we had to move our first five home games to neutral sites like Onondaga Community College in Syracuse,” said Director of Game Management Malcolm Huggins. Of the 30 games played by the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams in 2015, only six games were played at home.

Come fall 2015 and spring 2016, Oswego will have a new turf complex for its soccer, field hockey and lacrosse teams to play on. “There will be a turf field with permanent bleachers, a press box and lights,” said Oswego Sports Information Director Michael Bielak. Unlike normal grass, snow can be plowed from the turf field and then the excess water drains out beneath. So these teams will be able to play through virtually all kinds of weather. Yet, baseball and softball, on the other hand, will still be unable to play.

Construction crews work diligently to get the new turf complex done in time

Robert Friske, the men’s tennis coach, explains how the Romney Field House has helped. “Before we had the fieldhouse, it was a nightmare. We had to cancel matches and find times to reschedule,” Friske said. “Now that we have the indoor courts, we don’t have to cancel and we can practice whenever.”

The baseball and softball teams can do drills inside, but they don’t get the opportunity to play real games, even when the snow melts. Often they wait until mid-April, over a month into the season to play a home game. “The problem for us is the outfield collects pools of water and you have to squeegee that away.” Huggins explains. “I spent three hours getting the field ready for our game against Cortland.”

The adverse weather affects nearly all of the schools with baseball and softball teams. During spring break in March, the majority of schools in the Northeast head to Florida to compete in a variety of invitationals. It is the only way teams can get in game play until the snow melts. If it doesn’t melt in April, they must cancel or reschedule.

Examples of teams other than Oswego being required to play games in other locations or cancel games

Rescheduling games is one of the hardest things the athletic department has to do. “When a game gets cancelled or rescheduled, I speak with our associate athletic director Eric Summers and then send out a Facebook alert, a tweet and a text message to our followers with the status of the game,” Bielak said.

There is also a long line of people who need to be notified at the school.“We have to contact communications, umpires, our grounds crew, equipment manager, student employees, opposing coaches and travel partners,” Huggins said.

Travel partners are two schools that travel together in softball. For example, Buffalo State and Brockport are partners as are Oswego and Cortland. In this case, Buffalo State might travel to play Oswego on Friday and then to Cortland on Saturday and Brockport vice-versa. Thus if the Friday game has to be cancelled, it can have a major effect on the schedule.

“Day to day, we’re are weathermen and women. We talk to coach who works with the other coaches,” Huggins explains. “If it is in-conference, we will work harder to play because it matters for the conference tournament.”

At the start of April 2015, Oswego’s baseball team travelled to Bard College near Poughkeepsie, New York to play Plattsburgh; this was a home game for the Cardinals, despite being about four hours away.

Whereas, if either school had turf, the trip would have been unnecessary and the bus costs from traveling to Poughkeepsie could be cut from the budget.

Despite the upfront cost, investing in a turf field for softball and baseball would simplify everything and save money in the long run.

It’s a no-brainer.

RELATED AUDIO:

Sports Information Director Michael Bielak speaking about his responsibilities of covering games.
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