COMMENTARY: Maine needs an earlier start on baseball, softball seasons

first_imgEvery two weeks, Mike Mandell gives his thoughts on the sports scene in Ellsworth, Hancock County and beyond.It’s now mid-May, and the spring sports season should be in full swing. Graduation is just around the corner, and with the summer months nearing, most teams should be easing toward playoff time.Instead, local baseball and softball teams find themselves in a pinch. Inclement weather has led to numerous postponements around the state, and the Maine Principals’ Association has already had to extend the regular season until June 2 as a result. Teams in Hancock County are reaching the halfway point far later than expected, and some in the northern part of Aroostook County still have to play 10 games or more.Spring is a challenging time for high school athletics. The rain can seem endless at times, and wet field conditions can make baseball and softball games unplayable. There’s nothing anyone can do about that; the weather is what it is, and it’s simply unsafe for games to be held under those circumstances. This is also the case with track and tennis, but these sports have fewer events and require fewer officials.Even if bad luck is to blame, it’s looking likely that the MPA will have to extend the baseball and softball regular seasons at least one more time. With postseason play beginning June 6, pushing the regular season past June 2 would be cutting it awfully close.This is placeholder textThis is placeholder textIf schedules become even more backlogged, the MPA could move the start of the playoffs back this year. So far, though, that hasn’t happened, and it could force some teams to play four or five games a week in order to complete their 16-game schedules before the current deadline. That’s a big workload for student-athletes who still have tests to take and papers to write as the school year comes to an endThere has to be a better solution. The state’s championship date of June 17 for baseball and softball is already very late in the year — most states finish play in late May or the first weekend of June — so pushing it back further would be unwise. Cutting the season to 12 or 14 games is an option, but 16 is already a rather small sample size. Yet there is another choice: starting the season earlier.This option is more achievable than the alternatives. After all, most baseball and softball teams in Maine already play around four exhibition games. That doesn’t really happen in any other sport, and baseball and softball don’t need to be exceptions. If teams began practice earlier and converted two exhibition games to regular season matchups, it would be possible for them to have played four games by the fourth week of April.Problems will still exist, of course. There will be weather delays in early April, too, and some schools also give their students weeklong vacation periods this time of year. Yet even if teams managed to play just three of those four or so extra games during that two-week stretch, it would significantly ease the load throughout the rest of the season.Although we can’t control whether it rains or shines, we can certainly control when baseball and softball teams schedule games. As beneficial as extra practices and exhibition contests can be, they become problematic when they take up nearly four weeks at the start of the year. Adjusting that would help baseball and softball seasons resemble those of other sports.Maine’s climate is always going to make the spring sports season difficult. Whereas states in other parts of the country can begin baseball and softball in early or mid-March, teams here don’t have that luxury. The state will always have to handle this time of year with a different approach.Nevertheless, it would be best for everyone if the scheduling nightmares the 2017 season has brought about could be avoided in the future. A scenario in which teams would have a few more games under their belts this time of year would make doing so much easier. Bio Mike MandellMike Mandell is the sports editor at The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander. He began working for The American in August 2016. You can reach him via email at [email protected] Hospice volunteers help families navigate grief and find hope – September 12, 2020 Ellsworth runners compete in virtual Boston Marathon – September 16, 2020center_img Latest Posts Latest posts by Mike Mandell (see all) MPA approves golf, XC, field hockey, soccer; football, volleyball moved to spring – September 10, 2020last_img

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