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Archive for Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Weather conditions influence games

June 15, 2005

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The Storm and the Bats hoped to face off in a Houk league game June 8 at Holcom, but lightning struck down the teams' plans. As the National Weather Service issued various tornado warnings and watches, hopes of a complete game narrowed, then referees suspended the contest.

"Mother Nature determines whether these games are played it is the nature of the sport," said Lee Ice, supervisor of youth sports for Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department.

When bad weather threatens, field and maintenance staffs take action handling the decision to cancel games and maintain field conditions.

At the city fields operated by the Parks and Recreation Department, the field staff passes on any field information that might cancel a game before 5 p.m. to Ice and his staff at the Holcom Park Recreation Center. After 5 p.m. the decision is left up to the umpires and coaches.

For Mike Mattin, director of the Heinrich and Houk leagues, the process works a bit different.

Mattin gets off work about 4 p.m. and checks in with the coaches 15 minutes later, before checking with the city at 4:30 p.m. to get the final decision on the fate of the games being played that evening.

"With rain it depends on what it does to the field," Mattin said. "Is it just going to be a passing shower, or if it will create conditions dangerous enough to get someone hurt?"

Clouds built up during the first game of a 16-U Phenix-Fyler doubleheader on June 8 at Mid-America West in Shawnee. The second game was rained out in the second inning.

Clouds built up during the first game of a 16-U Phenix-Fyler doubleheader on June 8 at Mid-America West in Shawnee. The second game was rained out in the second inning.

The Douglas County Amateur Baseball Assn. cancels games primarily because of field conditions by 4 p.m., notifying parents and coaches through a message posted on the DCABA telephone line or Web site.

"We try to communicate as early as possible with the coaches," said Stan Skwarlo, DCABA league president. "There is a fine line between giving the field the opportunity to dry out and needing to get a game played."

Lightning has created a set of policies unique to each league. The Heinrich and Houk leagues cancel games for lightning within three to eight miles of the field. The Parks and Recreation Department cancels games when lightning is three miles from the field.

Mattin said when lightning enters the area a 15-minute delay is called until another check is done to see if the lightning passed out of the area.

Parks and Recreation suspends games for 30 minutes for lightning. At the end of the delay umpires make a determination if the game will be suspended.

"During weather the entire complex is asked to take shelter in the dugouts or under canopies," Ice said. "When severe weather strikes the entire complex is shut down."

Skwarlo said the Douglas County Umpire Assn. officials are pretty well versed on what to do when they spot lightning in the sky.

"There is a cooperative effort between the umpires and coaches," Skwarlo said. "Common sense is used, and a 15- to 20-minute delay is the general rule."

Lightning usually leads to rain, and that means rescheduled games.

Lawrence Parks and Recreation tries to make up all rained-out games. The night after a canceled game, Ice goes into the office and reschedules games for the following week. He coordinates available facilities with the teams' schedules.

Ice recalled that in 1993 rain canceled more than 300 games.

"I learned that rescheduling games in August is not feasible, because I lost the majority of players, coaches and umpires to vacation, Girl Scout camp or football camp," Ice said. "There were more forfeits than games played that summer."

Ice has not had that problem since then, but does deal with disgruntled parents and coaches when games are canceled.

"There is no way to make concessions for 1,200 different special requests for rescheduling dates," Ice said. "Coaches and parents should know that I will be understanding in trying to get as many kids to the game as he can."

Parents and players are the first priority when the leagues decide to cancel or postpone a game.

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