Kids just want to play ball, but weather won’t cooperateAs he repeatedly twisted double-plays at Tuesday’s indoor practice, Carlton second baseman Otto Gonzalez knew everything he needed to do with the baseball.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CARLTON — As he repeatedly twisted double-plays at Tuesday’s indoor practice, Carlton second baseman Otto Gonzalez knew everything he needed to do with the baseball.
This season, maybe it should have been a snowball.
Snow has suffocated area ball fields this year, forcing teams, coaches and players indoors for more than a month. For Gonzalez, a senior foreign exchange student from Maracay, Venezuela, it’s the first time he’s ever seen snow in his life. Still, even the 17-year-old baseball fanatic is fed up with the winter.
“This is so different than my country — it’s 90 [degrees] there right now,” Gonzalez said Tuesday inside Four Seasons Complex in Carlton. “The first month seeing snow was really fun, but I’ve been waiting to play baseball — it’s my favorite sport. And now that we’re playing, I want it all to go away.”
A continent away from his hometown where he learned the year-round sport when he was 3 years old, Gonzalez was introduced to fourth-year Coach Ryan Schmidt by senior teammate Kyle Gunderson last fall. Gonzalez noted his neatest experience came at daily practice, when he and his teammates recently shoveled off the field at Chub Lake Park.
“That was my first time,” Gonzalez said of shoveling. “This has all been a new experience for me. When we play, I’m going to do my best and whatever it takes to help the team.”
Although Gonzalez hasn’t played for several seasons, Schmidt said his utility infielder mixes well with fellow seniors and veteran pitchers Gunderson and Erik Adams, as well as infielders Zach Veno, Brett Balow and catcher Jacob Eggert.
“Some foreign exchange students you see haven’t picked up a ball, but you can definitely tell he’s played before — he’s got great hands, he has knowledge for the game and he wants to play,” Schmidt said of Gonzalez, one of 18 players in the Bulldogs’ program this season. “He’s been a nice little addition for us.”
Gonzalez, whose favorite player is Detroit Tigers’ third baseman Miguel Cabrera — also from Maracay — hopes the snow clears sooner than later.
“We’ve had to cancel our first eight games,” said Schmidt, also the Bulldog’s activities director (AD). “But whenever we do get out there, these guys will be motivated. They feel they should’ve done better last year and gone farther. They feel it’s their year to do something and that’s what keeps them going.”
At this pace, though, the spring season is going to be over before it barely gets started.
According to ninth-year Esko AD director Chad Stoskopf, it’s not looking good at all. In meetings with fellow Polar League ADs Wednesday, Stoskopf said they aren’t rescheduling any games before May, and that the sports seasons’ length may not begin until mid-May.
In that case, Stoskopf said potential doubleheaders are possible, still allowing for practice time and rest for the athletes.
“The kids are the reason why we are trying to be so creative,” Stoskopf said. “Academics are first, sports second.”
Cloquet AD Tom Lenarz agreed from his office Tuesday, noting he will not reschedule any nonconference events, and said there is no way Lumberjacks teams will get in a full schedule.
“In a spring as late as this, that’s just not going to happen,” Lenarz said. “I just don’t think there’s anything logical at all about cramming in all of those games within three weeks.”
Kenny Joyce, Braun Park manager since it opened in 2000, said it will be at least two or three weeks before softball can be played at the complex; and fields won’t be touched until May.
“Two of the fields we plowed earlier have four or five inches left, and the others are worse,” said Joyce, noting the park is a month behind last year’s schedule. “The parking lot is still closed up. We’re at the mercy of Mother Nature, right now.”
“We had our field cleared for a week-and-a-half,” Moose Lake senior Tony Adamczak added. “We just want to play ball.”
Baseball and softball games have been played in southwest Minnesota, but countless cancellations are going on statewide. The Minnesota State High School League may even have to bump back state tournament schedules to accommodate.
“I haven’t heard of anything, but maybe they’re talking of it,” Stoskopf said. “A 10-game season isn’t fair for anybody.”
Especially for Gonzalez, who just wants some fair weather.