Local teams battling cold weather

DOVER — Some people just deal with cold weather better than others.

And J.P. Blandin said he only has to look at his Delaware State baseball players when they take the field to figure out which ones are which.

“You can tell in practice right away,” said the Hornets’ veteran coach. “Who’s got a mask on? You’re like, ‘Take the mask off.’ Whose hoods are up? You’re like, ‘Take the hood off.’

“For an hour and a half, we’re going to grind — ‘If it’s cold, I’m not going to be able to tell by looking at any one of you.’ That’s the kind of mindset you have to have.”

When the weather is as frosty as it is this week, though, that’s easier said than done.

The college sports spring season may be in full swing with the high school season starting next week, but the weather feels more like the middle of winter.

Kent County was spared any significant snowfall from Tuesday’s storm, but that doesn’t make the blustery wind any less biting or the freezing temperature any less cold.

Dover High is one of the more fortunate ones.

Its new school has indoor practice facilities for baseball and softball. The building, located next to the playing fields, has batting cages, pitchers’ mounds and a small artificial surface area for fielding practice.

So while the gusting wind were shaking the metal parking-lot signs and swirling a few snowflakes outside, the Senators were relatively warm inside getting in some practice.

“The building is the best thing ever actually,” senior outfielder Victorian Mitchell said on Wednesday. “If we had to practice outside we’d probably be sticks, we’d be frozen.

“Hitting a ball when it’s cold outside, it stings your fingers. It hurts — it hurts a lot. You know it’s coming but, at the end of the day, you’ve still got to take it for your team.”

Most high schools do what they can to hold practice in their gyms. Of course, there’s not enough after-school hours in the day for every varsity and JV squad to have full two-hour sessions.

Caesar Rodney High athletic director Bob Beron said a school’s coaches really have to work together this time of year.

“There’s so many teams that want it and we only have one gym,” he said. “We’re breaking it up into hour segments at a time so that every team can get a little piece. Right now we’re going to all hours until we can get outside.

“They’re all doing a great job to work together. That’s always a key part — that the coaches aren’t arguing over, ‘I wanted this time, I wanted that time.’ Everyone’s working together.”

Dover High varsity softball outfielder Kristen Spencer returns the ball to the catcher during indoor practice Wednesday. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

Sometimes coaches have to be creative.

Longtime CR boys’ tennis coach Jim Harvey uses the wrestling practice area, behind the gym bleachers to work on different drills, as well as conditioning. The Riders usually won’t practice outside if the temperature is below 40.

But sometimes, said Harvey, it does come down to just gritting it out through the cold. Henlopen Conference tennis teams are supposed to open their seasons on Wednesday.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had it this bad,” said Harvey. “Like last year, I think we were inside one time and I don’t think we missed any practices. It’s been a while since we’ve actually missed practices this many times in preseason.

“But they all show up. Last week, when it was cold, my hands turned blue but they’re still out there hitting and wearing short-sleeve shirts. It’s a little crazy but they want to be out there.”

Of course, nothing beats actually being able to practice outside.

CR is hoping to host Dover today in a baseball scrimmage if the field is playable. Senator coach Dave Gordon said you really have to be outside to work on defense in baseball.

“I mean we went outside Monday and it was freezing,” said Gordon, whose team is slated to host Lake Forest next Thursday. “But we had to because of what the next couple days looked like.

“I think you’ve just got to be smart. Practice-wise, if you put together a good plan to keep the kids moving, I think you kind of forget about it. But when it’s game time, and they’re standing around in long innings, it can kind of creep up on you. You’re like, ‘Man, I’m cold.’

“You can go out there and have a good quality practice for about an hour and a half. But those last 30 minutes, I don’t care what you’re wearing, you’re going to feel it a little bit.”

The irony about this relatively-late blast of winter is that there were some unseasonably warm temperatures in January and February.

Dover High head softball coach Gerald Jester hitting grounders to his team during workout in their indoor facility due to high winds and cold temperatures Wednesday. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

Blandin thinks that’s why the Hornets (3-7) have fielded the ball well in the early season.

On the other hand, DelState has already had five games canceled or postponed because of the weather.

Those warm days were a distant memory when Blandin was watching some light snow blowing around Solider Field last weekend. The weather wiped out DelState’s home weekend series with Manhattan.

“We talk about it all the time,” Blandin said about dealing with the cold. “Sunday we decided we had to play because we couldn’t just stand around and be inside the whole weekend. So we went outside on Sunday and we played a nine-inning intra-squad (scrimmage).

“We talked about it before we went out there — ‘Hey, Norfolk State is playing today. It doesn’t matter how cold it is, we’ve got to go out and play.’”

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