Spring dreams buried beneath the snow


Mike Lubawski

Spring was not in the air when baseball players dug out Stevens Field on March 9.

A record-setting amount of snowfall this winter has delayed the start of many spring sports programs throughout the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA), which includes AMSA’s baseball and softball teams.

The baseball team plays at Stevens Field and the softball team at Ghaloni Park, both located in Marlborough, and neither field was ready for the beginning of the season. Opposing teams also have had trouble readying their facilities.

The baseball team was scheduled to play its opener on March 27 at North Brookfield, but that game was postponed until June. The softball season was slated to begin at Abby Kelley Foster Charter School in Worcester on the same day, but that game was pushed back to March 30. The Eagles romped to a 22-3 win.

The baseball team will play six straight games on the road before its home opener on April 27 against North Brookfield.

“The town has been working hard to get these fields ready by the start of the season; it is one of their top priorities,” Eagles coach Mike Lubawski said.

It still isn’t clear, however, when either Marlborough field will be ready or if more postponements are on the horizon.

“There is no timetable for the fields to be ready,” AMSA athletic director George Albuquerque said.

Much of the problem has stemmed from snow being on the ground for so long. “The weather has not been good enough for the town to plow the fields,” Mr. Albuquerque said last month. “If they tried to get rid of the snow with the snow blower it would ruin the turf.”

Many baseball and softball teams around the commonwealth are experiencing similar problems, which is why the MIAA decided to postpone the season by one week, with final games expected to be played in the beginning of June.

AMSA tried to play its first game at Douglas on Wednesday, but the game was called because of inclement weather with the Eagles leading in the fourth inning.

That game will need to be completed at some point, too.

“The MIAA extended the season on their own,” Mr. Albuquerque said. “Basically they just extended the cut off day a week so we get an extra seven days to schedule games at the end of the season in good weather.”

[slideshow_deploy id=’1835′]

Practice has been a huge issue. Many schools have had to move baseball and softball into gymnasiums, while AMSA has prepared at Fore Kicks. The problem with this, however, is twofold: space and logistics.

For safety reasons, the baseball team is not allowed to do any live hitting outside of batting cages. Field players, meanwhile, are essentially standing on top of each other during various drills.

The roof prevents actual fly ball practice, and that is a basic principle of the game—the ball is supposed to be in the air, and people are supposed to try and catch it.

Mr. Lubawski and his varsity assistants, Craig Macauley and Chris Marsh, and junior varsity coach Eloi Ruegg have had to scramble and stretch their creativity in order to create drills that work.

It’s true that the teams usually spend the first few weeks of the season practicing at Fore Kicks anyway, but the longer the fields are inaccessible, the more space and a lack of proper game simulations become factors.

“We are extremely lucky to have Fore Kicks,” Mr. Lubawski said. “It’s nice to be able to practice until 6 p.m. every weeknight.”

The heavy snow has played havoc with Stevens Field, which was granted a new lighting system by the town of Marlborough. Unfortunately, all the snow hit and buried the poles for the fixtures. They were laid down on the field, which was another reason the town could not use heavy snow-blowing equipment.

The solution? Mr. Lubawski had members of the baseball team shovel the outfield and infield at Stevens Field—buried beneath at least three feet of snow at the time—on March 9.

“The teams are going to going to have to deal with it,” Mr. Albuquerque said. “They are going to have to be ready to play three or four games a week.”

Players are obviously eager to get the season under way but they understand why it has been in limbo.

“It’s obviously disappointing that the season didn’t start on time, but we can’t really do anything about it,” senior first baseman and pitcher Dylan Holm said. “I want to start playing now, but when the season starts it starts.”