Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Welcome home Beavers. Play ball!

Sunshine. Hot dogs. Dirt. Leather. “Ping.” Freshly-cut grass. Peanuts.

Alone, each is mundane and meaningless. But when taken in together they signify spring or, more importantly in my mind, baseball season.

Today, those items all came together at the BSU Baseball Field for the 2013 home opener and let me tell you, it feels pretty good. It’s been a long, harsh winter and the barrage of snow that fell on this area in March and April made the back edge of the coldest season of the year seem endless.

The spring of 2013 will undoubtedly be one to forget for sports teams in Bemidji and across Minnesota. In fact, an overcast, 35-degree day like today could easily be mistaken for March 1 without the consultation of a calendar.

This “spring,” instead catching BSU baseball, softball, golf or track and field teams practicing or competing, we watched heavy machinery remove tons of snow from the playing surfaces of our facilities. Our golf teams did their best to translate what they learned in a golf simulator at the local bowling alley onto courses in warmer climates, and as far as I know no open date has been set for the BTCC. Teams have been forced to travel beyond the boarder of Minnesota to places like Kansas City, Mo., Omaha, Neb. or even Williston, N.D. to find playable courses and fields. Don’t bring up the words “travel” or “bus” around our baseball or softball teams. This spring, they have combined to travel over 16,000 miles and lost 20 “home” games, which included the entire 2013 softball season. Until yesterday (April 30) neither team set foot on our fields to take a single ground ball, hit a round of batting practice or to do something as simple as run the bases. The fields were covered with snow, then ice, then mud and were unplayable.

We live in Northern Minnesota, I understand that. Weather is unpredictable, I get that too. There have to be some trade offs for living in one of the most beautiful places on earth. But next time you hear someone making a case for global warming, send him or her my way. I’ve got a few examples to that may disprove their theories. At the time of the first pitch of our 2013 home baseball game today, according to a trusted friend, there was in excess of 30 inches of ice on Lake Bemidji (He knows because he was ice fishing last Saturday and was nearly unable to punch through the thick sheet with his auger) and we are on pace for the latest ice-off on record (May 23)—Did I mention Minnesota’s fishing opener is just 10 days away?

The last few seasons, we’ve been spoiled into thinking sunny, 70-degree days are the norm for the second week of March. But after combing over the records I have available, I’ve been reminded how short our memories are. We are a bit late with the start of our season, but are not as far from “normal” as you may think. The BSU’s softball team’s average home-opening date is April 11, while the baseball team's average home opener has taken place April 18, so really we are just two or three weeks late. The problem is, with already short spring season, it seems that 75-80 percent of all events are scheduled during that 14 to 21-day span.

Here are some other notable numbers and nuggets I found today regarding BSU baseball/softball:

* The BSU baseball team’s earliest home opener took place just three seasons ago, March 21, 2010.

* Since 1952, the BSU baseball team has opened its home season in May 13 times prior to 2013.

* The Beaver baseball program’s latest home opener took place May 18, 1954.

* BSU baseball has averaged 11 home games per year in 62 years of baseball. This season the Beavers are on pace for six home games.

* Until this season, from what I have been able to find, BSU has had an entire home softball season stolen by inclement weather just one other time--2008. We also came close in 2002, playing just two home games.

* BSU softball has averaged nearly 10 home games per season since the program got its start in 1982 (base on available records).

* BSU softball’s earliest home opener was March 24, 2012.

* BSU softball has played only 10 home games in March and all but two came in a four-day span a year ago (March 24-28).

* BSU softball’s latest home opener took place April 26, 1996.

So today, instead of smothering your exposed skin with coconut-scented sunscreen, cover your skin with a beanie and choppers, huddle up next to someone and take in a Beaver Baseball game. Don’t let the cool temperatures keep you away. Bemidji State’s boys of summer are back at home on the BSU Baseball Field and once again all is right in the world.

Go Green!

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