Rain has been a pain for spring sports

Cancellations, damaged fields causing headaches
Nate Thompson
Apr 20, 2013

Fruitport athletic director Ken Erny joked that he's considering turning the Trojans' baseball and softball fields into a duck sanctuary, since currently, they're both underwater.

It's been that type of spring for area athletic programs in what has been one of the wettest and wildest springs in recent memory.

"Overall, everyone is hanging in there even though it tries our patience," Erny said. "Every coach, player and parent is ready to see the spring season start. We feel the most for those seniors who have anticipated for so long their final spring season."

Erny said every outdoors sport at Fruitport has dealt with weather-related chaos, which has already wiped out a good chunk of their seasons or forced several re-scheduled contests. The varsity softball team for example, which normally would have 10 games under the belt at this point, has yet to play. The baseball squad has one game completed.

"Softball had a chance to play Tuesday, but our field was too wet and the visitor dugout was partially submerged," Erny said. "We have already canceled Saturday baseball doubleheaders due to field conditions."

Too many postponements can mean trouble, said Spring Lake athletic director Cavin Mohrhardt.

"The MHSAA has regulations on how many games each sport can play," he said. "You can only have three soccer games per week, and right now, the way our schedule is set, we have three games scheduled every week up until district play. In baseball, there's regulations on a total number of games (per week), innings you can play and pitches to worry about. You can't have five games in one week. It's going to ruin your pitchers."

Morhhardt said athletic directors have been forced with the tough decision to re-schedule league games, while dropping non-league opponents.

"Our league has creatively attempted to find a way to make up for lost time," Erny added. "Any more cancellations, though, and that may eliminate the best of plans." 

Another issue, Mohrhardt said, is the current condition of playing fields. The adverse weather has done its part in creating a sloppy, muddy mess on playing or practice fields, which increases the chance of injury.

"It's just not a good formula with the frost coming out of the ground, all the moisture, you really do tear up fields," Mohrhardt said. "That's why we've been so careful scheduling games.

"I talked to (varsity soccer coach) Jeremy Thelen yesterday, and he said 'that's the first time I've ever seen water on the soccer field.' The football field is a great field, it drains really well, it's just saturrated. We've been able to play lacrosse there."

Erny said referees cancelled a soccer game at Fruitport High School, despite both teams in attendance and ready to play, simply because the natural grass field was in such bad condition in front of the goal.

"The next day, we made up the game and traveled to Hudsonville," he said. 

Some schools are fortunate to have installed artificial turf field playing surfaces, which helps drain water at a rapid rate. It's allowed Grand Haven's boys and girls lacrosse teams and girls soccer team to play at Buccaneer Stadium without incident. At WMC, assistant athletic director Fred Vandenbrand said the Warriors' soccer team chose to play a scheduled home game at Muskegon Oakridge's field turf field, instead of taking the risk of tearing up a soggy natural grass Warrior Field.

That also may be an option at Spring Lake, as Mohrhardt said that Coopersville has been generous enough to offer its turf field stadium on open dates so schools can potentially make up soccer games.

"That's pretty cool," Mohrhardt said.  

With the way this spring has turned out, athletic directors will take any break they can get.

"Nope, it's never been this bad," Mohrhardt said. "We were at our AD meeting and everyone said the same thing. There's been bad springs before, but we've at least always had 3-4 baseball games in. It's just the raina and field conditions that have kept most of our sports from competing right now."

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