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CRAMMED: Area teams forced to deal with practicing indoors for longer than normal

Baseball inside

With a fresh layer of snow sweeping through the area last week, spring sports teams haven’t had the chance to step outside and play in the natural elements. (Jon Weisbrod/People’s Press)

There hasn’t been a single game or match played, but the season has already become a bit of a grind for area teams.

Mother Nature has simply been relentless.

“You can tell they are getting a little tired of it,” Blooming Prairie baseball coach Matt Kittelson said of his team that hasn’t set foot outside in the three weeks since practice started. “Baseball is meant to be played outdoors and you can tell they are itching to get going. But at this point you just have to let nature run its course.”

The Awesome Blossoms, like all area baseball teams, have attempted to maximize every inch of the crammed gym space while emphasizing fundamentals and technique. One day the they worked on fielding. One day they worked on situational hitting. One day they worked on baserunning.

One day they worked on absolutely nothing.

“They needed a break,” Kittelson said. “We gathered as a team and talked about goals and discussed the mental side of the game. We watched the Twins game and had some pizza. We had a nice break with expectations that we would come back and get back to work [on Monday]. Sometimes less is more and I think we got something out of stepping back.”

Blooming Prairie isn’t the only area team struggling with limited and cramped gym space. Track and field teams are using hallways for sprints, running stairwells for conditioning and spending more time weight-training in an attempt to prepare for the competitive season.

The golf squads haven’t teed off yet while the Owatonna girls and boys lacrosse teams have used the dried surface of the Four Seasons Centre to conduct tryouts.

For OHS track and field coach, Kevin Stelter, planning day-to-day activities has been especially challenging considering there are more than 80 athletes listed on the preseason roster, each one of which specializes in a handful of events.

“You just have to be flexible this time of year,” Stelter said. “I have an idea of what I want to accomplish and then I try to figure out if I have the gym for 20 minutes and then we will run stairs and maybe lift weight for 30 minutes. I try to have three to four activities I want to to accomplish every day and usually one of the four will be available.”

With snow covering every available outdoor surface, OHS girls lacrosse coach Dan Paur was forced to make critical decisions about his roster with his players running around on an unnatural surface under the roof of the hockey rink during tryouts last week.

“We had 52 girls trying out, so the space got a little tight,” Paur said. “You want to get good looks at each one but it’s hard sometimes with the lighting and the dimensions. All of that can affect how the girls play. They will drop a few extra passes and the ball takes funny bounces [inside]. As coaches, you have to take all that into consideration and it is major challenge. It’s tough because we play in such a big wide-open space outside and we are confined to the quarters of the rink. We haven’t seen anything close a 100-yard field yet, and we need that. There will be an adjustment when we start playing games.”

With several inches of snow re-blanketing the region early last week and temperatures dipping below 25 degrees on Friday and Saturday, there wasn’t a single sporting competition that wasn’t postponed. Many of the events have been moved to undetermined dates, making it difficult to plan for coaches and players.

“It’s going to get condensed,” Kittelson said. “We might have to use up to 12 different pitchers this season. It’s just tough to tell at this point.”

As of Monday evening, Owatonna’s track and field meet in Faribault on Tuesday hadn’t been moved yet. The Huskies’ baseball and softball games have already been postponed along with all events in Medford, Blooming Prairie and NRHEG.

Temperatures are expected to reach into the 50s on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but rain is projected on two of those days.

At this point, the rest of this week is pretty much up in the air.

Reach sports editor Jon Weisbrod at 444-2375, or follow him on @OPPJonW

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