Snow makes large mess of spring practice

Some teams forced inside

season's start faces delay

March 01, 2003|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Old Mill baseball coach Mel Montgomery doesn't like to practice indoors.

"I hate going inside because every time we have, somebody got hurt or [the players] fooled around," said Montgomery, who is starting his 26th season at the Anne Arundel County school. "It's a different atmosphere."

Today is the first day public schools are allowed to start spring practice. Montgomery's team will take today off. But on Monday, they'll be practicing - outdoors.

"Luckily we have a lot of space on our parking lot at Old Mill," Montgomery said. "But the problem is there are mountains of snow around the places where we practice, and it will severely limit what we can do. We're going to have to be very inventive and really careful not to have the guys slip and fall."

Still for Montgomery, it's better than being inside.

"Seventy boys in the gym for tryouts for an hour is not worth it, even playing catch," Montgomery said.

The recent snowfalls that have closed schools and postponed games will affect spring practices and, in all likelihood, the start of the regular season. Public schools are scheduled to start March 21.

"It's just going to be very difficult to get the season started in baseball and softball," said Don Disney, coordinator of athletics in Howard County.

Bernie Walter agreed. "It wouldn't surprise me to see some people cancel those early games, " said Arundel's baseball coach and athletic director.

So for now, teams will be relegated to parking lots and indoors.

"We will continue to use the hallways," said Sharon Johnson, coach of the Milford Mill state 3A-2A indoor girls track team and its outdoor coach.

"The whole winter was a disaster since we don't have access to an indoor facility, and the snow has probably set us back at least couple weeks for the spring."

While baseball and softball teams must wait for their fields to dry, lacrosse teams have it a little easier.

"Lacrosse will tear up the fields, but we'll do the best we can," Disney said. "I'm sure we'll start the season on time."

Many schools throughout the metro area will start practicing Monday instead of today. Because the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association mandates that "at least 20 calendar days have elapsed" between the first practice day and the regular season, those schools won't be allowed to start the regular season before March 23.

"That rule will still hold," said Ned Sparks, executive director of the MPSSAA. "If they're not ready to go by March 21, they will just have to push games back like they would have to push back a rained-out game."

Private schools, such as those in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association, get the jump on the public schools because they started on Feb. 17. But this spring, the snow might have neutralized that edge.

"Some of our schools that have relationships with Navy, Loyola or Hopkins can possibly get on their fields for lacrosse practice," said Rick Diggs, the MIAA executive director.

"But everybody can't do that. We're less than three weeks away from playing games and at this point, I don't know what we're going to do."

The advantages the private schools have, however, are no limit on the number of games they can play and no special regulations for travel.

St. Paul's, last spring's MIAA A Conference baseball champion, will play five games in Hawaii this month (March 16-24).

"We picked the right year for this trip," said Paul Bernstorf, the Crusaders' baseball coach. "The March weather in Baltimore is always hit and miss. We've been fortunate [with the weather] the last couple years. Eventually spring will come."

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