Gene's Blog: Weather drives diamond teams batty

Gene's Blog: Weather drives diamond teams batty

In the outfield at St. Thomas' Koch Diamond: 17 inches.

In the outfield at Minneapolis' Parade Stadium: 16 inches.

Near the Bethel campus in Vadnais Heights: 16 inches.

Near both Northfield and St. Peter: 10-12 inches.

Near Winona: 7-9 inches.

And you thought football was the game of inches.

Welcome to the 2018 Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference baseball and softball seasons. If Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks was around here this month, his motto would be "Let's play two... we'll shoot for two weeks from tomorrow."

Minnesotans hold these truths to be self-evident:

True: The crazy April 14-15 blizzard left a large swath of central and southern Minnesota diamonds under a blanket of white.

True: Hey snow lovers, more good news: Wednesday's forecast calls for a couple of more inches of slush and snow.

True: The average high temperature over 31 days in March 2018 in the Twin Cities was 40 degrees.

True: The average high temperature over the first 15 days in April 2018 in the Twin Cities was 35 degrees -- the average daily high temp in April over the years is 58 degrees.

True: The last time the official high temperature in the Twin Cities was above 52 degrees was Dec. 4.

 

True: Only five of the MIAC's scheduled 55 baseball doubleheaders for 2018 have been played as of April 16, and the layoff could extend all the way through April 19.

True: The conference baseball playoffs are scheduled to start in 25 days.

True: Only one of the league's 11 teams (Gustavus) has thus far played on-campus home games.

True: St. Olaf Baseball hasn't played any MIAC games yet, and last played March 28 in Florida.

True: St. Thomas has played just 14 baseball games -- almost half the number it usually has by this point in the spring -- and none in St. Paul.

True: UST football coach Glenn Caruso has played more games so far this school year on an outdoor Twin Cities baseball diamond (one, Target Field) than his UST colleague Coach Chris Olean.

True: From the irony department, just above the center field fence at the Tommies' Koch Diamond you can find... a tornado siren.

True: St. Thomas Softball just set a world record: It has played in four different domes in an nine-day span using facilities in Plymouth, Dundas, Minneapolis and Rochester. Players are eligible for study-abroad credits.

True: Due in large part to having access to area domes, the MIAC has seen 22 of the season's scheduled 66 league softball doubleheaders played so far.

True: The conference softball playoffs are scheduled to start in 18 days.

True: Tommie Softball had a walk-off at both the start and the end of their Sunday trip to Rochester. Around 10 p.m., Elise Barnes' seventh-inning solo homer gave St. Thomas a game-ending 4-3 win and capped a sweep of Carleton. Hours earlier as they were trying to exit campus, all 26 UST players had to walk off the bus and helped push it out of a snow bank so they could drive to Rochester.

True: Tommie Baseball has played more games on fields in Iowa and Wisconsin (five) than in Minnesota (four).

True: Since the last time Tommie Baseball played a game in Minnesota, Gophers' AD Mark Coyle has hired new head coaches in men's hockey and women's basketball; Maryland-Baltimore County became a thing; and Loyola's Sister Jean surpassed Sid Hartman as the most famous 98-year-old in the country.

True: Gene's Blog and this year's MIAC April baseball calendar share something in common. After reading a Gene's Blog, you realize there are seven minutes of your life you can't get back again. This April in the MIAC, you realize you have three to four weeks of your season you can never get back again.

True: Like the 1948 Boston Braves, a new weather-themed baseball catchphrase has kicked in for Tommie Baseball in 2018. The Braves' leaned on two hurlers that season, and their plan was "(Warren) Spahn and (Johnny) Sain... and pray for rain." For UST's Olean so far it's been "DeCaster and Zimm... then back inside to practice in the gym."

True: In trying to figure out how to ensure equitable MIAC playoff fields in baseball and softball, executive director Dan McKane isn't sure whether to hire a full-time meteorologist, or a full-time bracketologist.

True: Instead of debating whether it should be called a "fair" pole or a "foul" pole, MIAC baseball diamonds this spring will refer to the pillars in the right and left-field corners as "South" pole and "North" pole. 

True: Kidding aside, conference coaches already voted last week to trim the nine-inning nightcap of each league doubleheader back to a seven-inning contest. This week they are kicking around ideas if they need to shorten the MIAC season; possibly have two divisions with a reduced schedule; or possibly secure three sites to play games next Saturday through Monday to help teams catch up.

True: From the Misery-Loves-Company department, consider the misfortune of former St. Thomas distance runners Jacob Gerhartz and Dylan Baumann. The pair qualified for Monday's Boston Marathon -- their first trip each to the famous Boston race -- but they were snowed in Saturday at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and couldn't travel to Massachusetts in time for the competition.

That's probably the lesson of MIAC baseball and softball in 2018. It's not a sprint... and if it snows too much, it won't be a marathon, either.

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Gene's Blog is a sports column penned by UST sports information director Gene McGivern. Gene is working his 24th season at St. Thomas and 30th overall in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. He blogs periodically on various topics regarding the Tommies, the MIAC and Division III sports.

If you have comments or questions, e-mail Gene at ejmcgivern@stthomas.edu