Who would have thought that this year’s baseball season would not hinge on the right arm of a fireballing 6-foot-3 senior or timely hits in a close game, but on the acts of a little old lady commonly known as Mother Nature?
In fact, Mother Nature has been playing so well this season she’s making a strong case for Player of the Year.
Got a game against your region rivals? Mother Nature doesn’t care.
Playing against one of the top teams in the state? Mother Nature scoffs and makes it rain more often than Pacman Jones at a gentleman’s club.
For the past two weeks rain has forced the cancelation of several games and has made area ball fields look more like water hazards than baseball diamonds. Yet while the damage to the fields can certainly be repaired with a little sunshine, the impact that the precipitation has had on area teams could ultimately determine which teams make the playoffs and which teams don’t.
Take the Lumpkin County Indians for example. The seventh-ranked Indians were scheduled to play five games in five days last week due to rainouts, but three of those games were canceled by guess what? Rain. Those rainouts have now forced the Indians into a frantic schedule starting Friday where they start a string of six games in seven days.
"The thing I feel good about is that we have nine different pitchers and seven with at least one win," Lumpkin County coach Nicky Jenkins said. "We also had two guys in JV that could pitch, so I felt we had 11 kids that could actually throw."
But the Indians aren’t alone in their battle with Mother Nature. North Hall also was scheduled to play four games in five days last week (two were rained out), and unlike the Indians (13-1 Region 7-AAA), who are primed for a playoff spot, the not-as-deep Trojans could use a break between games.
"It’s already stressful enough having to play three games a week," North Hall coach Trent Mongero said. "But when you get into four or five it puts an unrealistic goal on pitching and coaching.
"College teams would struggle with this."
Not only does the busy schedule put a stress on pitching, but it also limits a team’s ability to work on the fundamentals in practice.
"I think the lack of practice will have a huge effect on the outcome of the season in that we don’t have time to work on the things we need to work on, but everybody’s in the same boat," Mongero said.
Luckily some rest will come this week with Spring Break, as the GHSA has a mandated dead period that started Saturday and ends Tuesday, but with all the recent cancellations, players may be spending part of their week off on the diamond and not on some beach in Mexico.
"The first available dates we’re gonna start playing," Mongero said.
Weather is one of the drawbacks in the life of spring sports, and baseball in general. High school teams don’t have the luxury of playing in domes or stadiums with retractable roofs. Instead they are forced to rely on good — or at least playable — weather. When the good weather finally occurs teams will be forced to rely on depth to reach the playoffs.
"I think the weather is definitely going to determine the playoff picture," Jenkins said. "Hopefully our depth in the pitching staff will pay off in the long run."
Until then it’s time to kiss up to Mother Nature.
My mother used to always tell me that "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," and while I never understood what that meant until recently, I can assure you that we are all finding out what can happen when Mother Nature is angered. Now, I’m not quite sure what we all did to get on her bad side, but we need to get back in her good graces, and quickly.
I suggest we all start sending flowers and cards to the Princess of Precipitation, because after all, Mother’s Day is just a month away, and from the way she’s been acting, we clearly have not shown Mother Nature enough love.
If we don’t do something the entire baseball season could be rained out. If Mother Nature was so unkind in March, just imagine how she’ll act during the 30-day period known for its April showers.
Jonathan Zopf is a sports writer for the The Times. His columns appear each Monday in the spring.