NEW ULM - The slow start of the spring sports seasons for area high schools has reached almost comical proportions.
After the first week and a half of the spring season was already filled with a number of postponements, the massive snow accumulation in the area over Wednesday and Thursday caused a further delay to the season just as it was on the verge of getting underway.
The week's snowfall will mean that area teams will have a hard time getting a chance to resume games until at least late next week.
Area athletic directors such as Minnesota Valley Lutheran's Craig Morgan have been left powerless to do anything other than wait out the snow and work out how to pick up the pieces of their sports teams' shattered schedules.
"All I did was laugh," Morgan said of his reaction to Thursday's snowfall. "There's not much you can do, you've just got to go with it. Everybody's in the same boat."
The boat that everyone is in must be pretty large, with baseball, softball, track and field, golf and tennis teams all unable to play until their venues dry out again.
Though the current situation may seem pretty grim with the current depth of the snow, Morgan predicts that it won't take more than a few days for the bare ground to reappear.
"It's unprecedented I guess as far as the snow that came today, that's huge, that's a lot of snow in one day," Morgan said. "But it will go away. The sun is high in the sky, it can heat things up - it's 34 degrees now and it's melting like crazy. So I'm pretty optimistic."
The current situation is almost hard to believe since on Monday, Morgan had the MVL golf team on the course at Mayflower Country Club and a few area softball, baseball and tennis teams were able to get games in.
Johnson Park and Mueller Park were on the cusp on being ready for baseball action on Monday, but the current setback sets the stage for scheduling problems as MVL, New Ulm High School, New Ulm Cathedral and Martin Luther College all vie for field time.
New Ulm head baseball coach Jay Backer gave a realistic estimate of next Thursday as the date he expects Johnson and Mueller to be playable. The Eagles currently still have a 20-game schedule planned, but Backer realizes that teams are entering the territory where they will have to consider planning for some cancellations down the line.
"The fields just need time to dry out, and snow obviously is going to go slower than just rain," Backer said. "The fields weren't ready in New Ulm prior to this, and you add this on top of it, I think you're really going to have to make the call whether or not you want to try to get busy weeks in, or eventually probably cancel non-conference and non-section games."
With the likelihood that area baseball teams will have to play four or five games a week to get back on track, Backer foresees some direct effects in terms of how games will have to be played.
"I think what this is going to maybe cause, it's going to cause some freshmen and sophomores being moved up to varsity to pitch," Backer said. "They may not be ready, and you'll probably see some inflated scores. I'd assume here the next couple of weeks where we have four, five, six-game weeks, with high run totals."
Cathedral head softball coach Bob Mertz foresees similar problems for area softball teams.
"The unfortunate thing is that we're probably going to play 18, 20 games in probably a four-week span, so that's going to be pretty taxing on some of the pitchers," Mertz said. "Especially some of the teams that only have one pitcher."
NUHS athletic director Chad Eischens has already experienced the trouble of trying to save a full schedule for all of the school's teams, such as a recent exchange with Mankato East's athletic director where none of the five proposed make-up dates he gave worked out.
Eischens mentioned that so far he has held off from considering using Wednesdays as potential make-up dates. He also is making it a particular point of emphasis to try to avoid scheduling games that would cut into classroom time.
"My biggest concern as we get further backed up is trying to keep kids in class," Eischens said. "We're probably going to lose a few events, and that's just the way it's going to be, and at a certain point, conference events are going to have to take precedence over non-conference events. But kids are going to be missing class, and that's going to become an issue. We're going to have to keep our eye on that."
Losing games in early April was not an entirely unforeseen problem for area teams, so luckily most schools had light schedules planned anyway for this week and next week.
Sleepy Eye St. Mary's athletic director and head baseball coach Bruce Woitas already has three baseball games to reschedule, but he had nothing scheduled for the second half of this week since he is accompanying the St. Mary's senior class on a class trip to Florida.
Woitas feels that area teams will be able to stay on their feet if they can resume their schedules before the end of next week.
"I think it's going to be important that we at least get part of next week's games in, if we don't it's going to be a big investment to try to get everything rescheduled," Woitas said.
The toughest thing about the current situation has been that teams that had just recently had their first outdoor practices are confined once again to indoor practices for the time being.
"That makes it even a little tougher to go back into the gym when you've had a game already," Mertz said. "But we did go back in, and as coaches there are some things that we saw that we need to work on. We're able to do some of those things in the gym, at least walk through it, but there are some things that I need to do with the outfield, too, and we're pretty limited."
The best that area teams can do is remain focused rather than let the unexpected weather disruption affect the flow of their seasons, and hope that the boat that they are all in will soon reach the shore.
"It's Mother Nature, there's not much you can do about it, we're all in the same boat," Mertz said. "We're just going to keep honing our skills, and like I told the girls last practice, we've just got to stay sharp, because we will get outside and we will play. We're just going to wait it out and be ready when we get out."