Asking parents of high school athletes to dig deep within their souls to answer questions as honestly and objectively as possible generally is a waste of time, but we’ll give it a shot anyway: Parents watching Free State High’s 11-1 baseball team, have you clapped at the end of the 11 victories because you are proud of your sons, or were you just happy the game was over so that you could finally go inside and escape the fangs of the cold, windy air?
On second thought, don’t search your souls. Just realize it’s nice of you to show up to watch your breath and some baseball. Over and over and over.
Have the Firebirds had a single warm day to play?
“It depends on how you define the word ‘warm,’” coach Mike Hill said. “Right now, if it’s above 40, we consider that warm.”
In other words, no.
“It’s been crazy,” Hill said. “I think it’s the worst I can remember in its totality. What I mean by that is the combination of cold and precipitation. The snow in particular has been troublesome.”
Lawrence High baseball coach Brad Stoll agreed.
“I’m tired of coaching like Bill Belichick,” Stoll said. “Baseball’s not meant to be coached in hooded sweatshirts.”
What next, ice hockey in the Sahara? A fashion show in a press box? A golfer talking about somebody else’s round instead of his own? (And then on No. 5, I just barely caught the pond, so I was one in, two back to the tee ... SHUT UP!)
Chris Marshall has been a boys tennis head coach for four years, an assistant for 11 at Lawrence High.
“This has been a brutal, brutal spring,” Marshall said. “By far the worst I can remember. I’ve worn shorts once, and I’m an old football coach used to wearing shorts all the time.”
Hill and Stoll pointed to the same reason the wintry spring hasn’t been all bad for their teams. They sang the praises of the school board for approving artificial-turf baseball fields.
“There are some days we’re probably the only two teams in the state of Kansas practicing,” Stoll said.
But even the turf can’t combat lightning. At 4:43 p.m. Monday, about 250 athletes headed inside Free State High — which was host school to a track meet, and sub-varsity baseball, softball and soccer games — to wait out a 30-minute lightning delay.
The school district subscribes to a weather service that sends text alerts, and once an athletic director is notified that lightning has struck within 10 miles of that school, the delay begins, and the 30-minute clock is reset with each bolt.
“When I started at Free State 15 years ago, we would sort of just say, ‘OK, we’ll wait ’til it gets closer.’ Back then you’d count flash to bang,” said Hill, who is also the school’s athletic director and assistant principal. “Technology today is outstanding.”
But not foolproof. Based on a weather forecast, Free State and the school against which it was supposed to open its baseball season agreed to delay the opener from a Monday to a Tuesday.
“It snowed Tuesday,” Hill said. “You just have to try to make the best decision based on the information you have.”
Olathe South is scheduled to visit Free State for a 5:30 p.m. baseball game today between Sunflower League powerhouses. The weather.com forecast calls for rain and snow showers in the morning and into early afternoon. The good news: First-pitch and the high temperature for the day (42 degrees) are scheduled to arrive at the same time. By then, the chance of precipitation will only be 30 percent, and the wind will have dropped to a day-low 14 mph.
Finally, some good luck on the weather front. It’s about time.