Cold temps keeping Mitchell spring baseball team indoorsWeather is always on the mind of Mitchell baseball coach Luke Norden at this time of year.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
Weather is always on the mind of Mitchell baseball coach Luke Norden at this time of year.
Anxious to get his team outdoors for practice, Norden said this year’s cold temperatures have kept his team indoors longer than in recent seasons. Instead of getting work in on Drake Field, the Kernels are spending a majority of their time in the Mitchell Middle School gymnasium.
“Last year we were out way before this,” Norden said. “We were playing long toss during volunteer practices two weeks before mandatory practices.”
Monday marked the first day of mandatory practice for the spring high school baseball team, which is scheduled to open its season April 2 in one seven-inning game against Sioux Falls Lincoln on the road.
Norden and the Kernels held “eight to 10 volunteer practices” that started in late February. This year’s volunteer practices had the highest attendances since Norden took over the high school team in 2004, having 15 to 20 players show up at times.
Wednesday, the team went outside to field fly balls, marking the third time since the start of volunteer practice players were outdoors for even a portion of the workout.
“The last couple of years when mandatory practices started, we’ve been able to get outside,” Norden said. “This is kind of an unusual year because the field is clear (of snow), but we can’t practice because it’s too cold.”
Last year, the Kernels opened their season March 30 and played their fourth game by April 5.
Since Monday, temperatures have been in the high 20s and low 30s, forcing players to wonder if their first game will actually be played on time.
The South Dakota High School Baseball Association rulebook states any team can decide not to play in a scheduled game, without forfeiting, if it’s colder than 42 degrees. The short-term forecast shows a chance for snow today, but the 10-day forecast predicts temperatures to rise to the middle and upper 40s by the end of next week.
Although they haven’t been able to make it outdoors much, the players are working on defensive individual infield-outfield skills, pitching drills along with soft-toss and tee-work in the gymnasium.
“The two things you can’t do when you’re inside is see live pitching and get arm strength up because you can’t play long-toss,” Norden said. “But that’s going to be the case for everybody. … It’s not like we’re the only ones in this situation.”
There are 16 players practicing with the Mitchell spring varsity team, Norden said.
“Some of those kids will play in some JV games as well,” Norden said. “Games we don’t have a JV game the same day as our varsity, we’ll probably take all 16 with us.”
Mitchell has six returners, all seniors, from last year’s team that lost in the wild-card game to get knocked from postseason play before qualifying for the state tournament. Norden also noted three players who saw action during the Legion team last summer also act as returners.
For the second straight year, Mitchell is also fielding a junior varsity spring team, which will be coached by Trevor Arnold. Its mandatory practices start April 8 and its first games are scheduled for April 20. Norden said there are 24 players signed up between both the varsity and JV spring teams, but added Mitchell Baseball Association recently opened the JV team up to eighth-graders, and the two squads could see as many as 30 players combined.
“Guys are excited,” Norden said. “Seniors know they’ve got a lot invested in the program and they’re anxious to get going. I’m excited, too.”