Area AD’s fighting through scheduling concerns

The irony was unavoidable as Armstrong activities director Patty Weldon drove her care into Bunker Hills April 23 to meet with her fellow Northwest Suburban Conference AD’s for an emergency scheduling meeting.

Snow flies in front of the home baseball dugout at Champlin Park High School April 18, which has been a theme in Minnesota this spring. (Sun Post staff photo by Nick Clark)
Snow flies in front of the home baseball dugout at Champlin Park High School April 18, which has been a theme in Minnesota this spring. (Sun Post staff photo by Nick Clark)

The gathering was intended to help figure out what to do with a spring season sports schedule that has slowly disappeared in front of everybody involved without hardly a game even contested.

And there was no better reminder than what the outskirts of the Bunker Hills clubhouse offered up that afternoon.

“You look out at the golf course, and I didn’t see one green patch of grass,” said Weldon. “It is so disappointing for everyone, but it is what it is. We don’t have a lot of control over the weather.”

No, apparently nobody in this still-snow covered landscape has those type of powers. But the influences that area activities directors do possess is a simple hope that some of the scheduling resolutions they reached last week can come to fruition.

In what has become a spring season unlike any current school administrator has ever been forced to deal with, actions were taken last week in a number of metro area conferences to try and salvage what is left of the season.

Most concerns have centered on the baseball and softball seasons, mainly for field condition reasons.

The belief is most golf courses will open promptly after the weather allows. Lacrosse fields, which are primarily homed inside football stadiums, also have a certain level of drainage abilities to allow for games to be contested shortly after the snow melts.

Likewise, tennis courts will dry in due time.

But when it comes to possible conditions of baseball and softball fields, things get tricky.

At Armstrong, where clay was used to build the infields, pitching mounds and batters boxes, it could take three full weeks to recover.

At a handful of other schools, including those in the Anoka-Hennepin district, the sand-based infields will dry out much quicker.

That could lead to an unbalanced schedule when it comes to home games vs. away games, but it appears there is at least a temporary resolution to how the conference standings will be measured.

“We think we have something,” said Champlin Park activities director Matt Mattson. “We are just hoping it doesn’t snow again [this] week.”

If spring does finally arrive by this week, the Northwest Suburban Conference will open its baseball and softball seasons April 24 by holding a season that is contested under a format in which the last 10 conference games against unique opponents count for league standings.

All games prior to April 24 will be “wiped clean.” In the case of rescheduled games that are now scheduled double-headers, the first game will count as a conference game, with the second game being recorded as a non-conference contest.

“It makes for a 10 game conference season, which still allows for practice time,” said Weldon. “It also allows for rainouts, if we have to cross that bridge.”

The North Suburban Conference has reached a similar solution. Instead of the typical round-and-a-half of conference games, the league will now have each team play each other once to decide its champion.

“Basically, we started from the back end of the season, the section tournaments, and tried to see what we could do,” said Robbinsdale Cooper activities director John Oelfke. “In essence, we erased four or five games from everybody’s schedule. But if you have a game that is against somebody you have already played and you can get it in, get it in. We are just going to count a certain amount of games.”

The deadlines everybody was working with are state and section tournaments. Rented facilities for state tournament play are non-negotiable in terms of the dates slated to hold each event. That means section tournaments also must be held within the current scheduled dates.

The Minnesota State High School League reached out to offer its help, stating an agreement made with the National Federation of State High School Associations to shorten baseball and softball games to five or six innings in double-header situations. Currently, those sports play seven-inning contests.

“There were all sorts of ideas tossed around,” said Mattson. “Hopefully we don’t have to worry about it anymore. All of us, all of our coaches and all of our players just want to get their season started. That is what this is about. Let’s play ball.”