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Chris Murphy, Published March 28 2013

Indoor practices have become the norm for Minnesota spring teams

Fargo - The lone loss last season for the New York Mills baseball team was in the quarterfinals of the Minnesota Class 1A state baseball tournament 1-0 to St. Agnes.

The Aggies scored their lone run in an inning that featured no hits or walks. After striking out, Joe McDonald got to second after the ball got away from the Eagles catcher. McDonald was bunted over to third and scored on a balk.

Needless to say, the Eagles have been waiting for this season to start since last season ended.

Mother Nature, however, has other plans. According to the Weather Channel’s website, April is going to begin with a high of 27 degrees.

There’s nothing spring about that, especially since baseball teams in Minnesota were able to start practicing on March 18.

“Last year, on Day 1 we could have gone outside if we wanted to,” New York Mills coach Chris Bushinger said. “This year is a little frustrating. You look at the long-range forecast, and it doesn’t look like the temps are going to warm up too much too soon. We just know it’s something we have to deal with and there’s nothing we can really do about it.”

The high on April 1 last year was 76 degrees. It was only a tease to spring sports.

“We weren’t inside one day,” Moorhead coach Greg Salvevold said. “Seven years ago, when I started this, every year I would tell myself it couldn’t get that bad, and then it would. Then, last year came. If only we could have that every year, this would be great. Now, we got this.”

There isn’t much hope for baseball and softball games to start on time in Minnesota, with the second week of April being the hope for teams to hit the diamond.

“You look at the seven-day forecast, and there’s nothing above 40 degrees,” Salvevold said. “I think we’re in for a long haul. We’re supposed to play (Fargo) South April 6, Brainerd April 9, Fargo North April 12, and Bemidji April 13. I’m hoping that we can get in that (Fargo) Davies game on April 15. We’re going to have to reschedule, and that’s just a nightmare.”

It isn’t just a scheduling nightmare, but a coaching nightmare as well. A player can’t pitch more than 14 innings over three consecutive days in Minnesota high school baseball, so with games becoming doubleheaders due to rescheduling, bullpens can be stretched pretty thin. The Spuds have an easy solution: Make everyone a pitcher.

“One thing we want to do is make everyone a pitcher, so we have that option just because of the nature of the beast around here with the weather,” Salvevold said. “When those types of things happen, we got to have a backup plan. We try to spread it out to where we’re still treating our arms and not abusing them.”

The Hawley softball team can’t even get to their fields to practice on heading to state for the third straight season.

“There’s too much snow on the roads to get out there,” Hawley coach Anita Heier said. “Obviously, we’re going to be inside for quite a while.”

There’s no fear for Hawley if weeks become packed with games thanks to rescheduling.

“The teams that have two or three decent pitchers should be just fine,” Heier said. “If you’re not practicing at that high level and then have to go play game after game after game, it’s going to be hard on your kids. For our girls, we practice so hard and go so intense in practice that by the time they get to games, it’s a piece of cake.”

The Nuggets, along with a lot of other people, just want to get outside.

“It’s kind of like looking forward to Christmas day,” Heier said. “You buy all your gifts, and you build up all this enthusiasm and finally you get out there and it’s like here we go. That build is kind of fun every year to sit through this indoor season to get them all excited to get outside.”

According to Bushinger, it’s all about avoiding cabin fever with practice in gyms and only a glimpse of sunshine.

“The message I give my guys is even though there’s nothing we can do about being inside, we still need to make good use of our time,” Bushinger said. “The biggest issue is to not try and do things too quick. I’d much rather see kids take 30 good cuts than 100 fast ones where they will get themselves in bad habits.”

Unfortunately, winter is taking Bushinger’s advice and taking its time.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548