March of weather leaves games behind schedule Record precipitation brings sports to halt

March 26, 1993|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Staff Writer

A combination of snow and rain that produced record-setting March precipitation has left athletic fields in unplayable condition and forced the postponement of 38 varsity outdoor high school sports events through yesterday.

Opening day for most sports was scheduled for last Monday, and officials are not certain whether any games will be played today.

The previous March record for precipitation at Baltimore-Washington International Airport was 6.8 inches. As of yesterday, March precipitation was 7.47 inches.

The inconvenience created by the unusual weather has failed to dampen the sense of humor among some coaches. A joke making the rounds in Howard County is that fly-fishing will become the newest high school spring sport.

"We're going to be holding a fly-fishing competition in our infield lake," Hammond High baseball coach and athletic director Bob Maxey said. "The county owes me a pile of dirt behind second base, but the field is so soft you can't get a truck down there."

Even if the weather dries out the field completely, Maxey doesn't foresee playing a baseball game until next Friday at the earliest.

That means he'll be rescheduling his team's first four games, including today's league opener against Atholton and Wednesday's league contest against Mount Hebron. The other two games are non-league contests against South Carroll and North Carroll.

"It would be nice if the state would move the playoffs back a week to give us more flexibility in rescheduling, but I don't think it will happen," Maxey said. "It's kind of a mess. But everyone is in the same boat. The only sport going good is gymnastics."

Practice times for the gymnasium are backed up to the point where Maxey's baseball team is practicing at 7 p.m. or taking batting practice on the blacktop outside the gym.

"It's like trying to have basketball practice without a basket," he said.

Maxey won't be surprised if the county resorts to playing doubleheaders to accommodate all the league baseball and softball games. Each school plays each other twice in those sports.

"Then it will be a battle over which field to play at," he said.

Fourteen varsity baseball games and 13 varsity softball games were scheduled this week.

"No games have been played so far, and Friday's games are on hold," said Ellen Lauer, secretary for Don Disney, county coordinator of health and physical education.

Lacrosse coaches have not been allowed to use the football fields where their teams normally play. Fifteen boys varsity lacrosse games and 15 girls varsity lacrosse games were scheduled this week.

"The athletic directors have volunteered not to use the stadium fields, and we have lined out alternative practice areas for now," said Paul O'Meara, assistant manager of grounds for the county public school system. "We have drained standing-water areas on those fields, and we are monitoring those fields on a daily basis, but there's not much else you can do until the weather clears.

"If conditions don't improve, there will come a time when we'll release them to go back on the stadium fields, because there just aren't enough alternate areas at some schools. There is no fixed date for that release.

"I've been working here for 13 years, and I've never seen it this bad. We're stocked up with lots of turf and Sta-Dry just waiting for things to start drying out so we can go to work."

O'Meara said he has a five-man crew to maintain the fields, but he can pull some people from other crews if needed.

Even the track coaches have not been able to get their teams outside to work out until this week because of piles of snow.

The Steve Duckworth Relays scheduled to kick off the track season at Glenelg tomorrow are likely to be run despite the weather.

"The rain would have to be very bad for us to cancel," Glenelg boys track coach Roger Volrath said.

The only two scheduled tennis matches this week have been postponed. League tennis competition is scheduled to begin Monday.

Al Harden, recreation supervisor for the Department of Recreation and Parks, which oversees 76 playing fields, hasn't panicked.

"Historically, we don't open up our fields for practice until April 1, and our leagues won't begin play until April 19," Harden said.

"But the overall impact could be scary. I hope the leagues allow some practice time before games start so they don't get a lot of injuries. That's my No. 1 concern -- that they'll be under pressure to get games in."

The Rec Department's fields serve softball, baseball, lacrosse and soccer leagues in the spring.

Harden, who has worked in the county since 1978, said: "This is the worst [weather] situation I've ever seen. This is the first time the start of a season might be postponed."

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