BENAC: Spring sports season off to a rainy start

So…who said it was spring? Did I claim that a few weeks ago in my ode to spring column?

Clearly I was wrong! Well, not exactly wrong (as I rarely am) but perhaps a bit more optimistic than I anticipated. In that article I painted spring as a joyful reawakening of the senses that saw warm, dry weather becoming the norm rather than the occasional exclamation point of fun.

Clearly I forgot about the part of spring where it does nothing but rain for weeks straight in 40-degree weather.

Maybe in some parts of the world spring is always warm and never wet. But in Northeast Michigan it rains. And rains. And rains.

Now this rain wouldn’t be so bad if the temperature creeped up to, say the upper 50s or early 60s and stayed there for a few months. But sitting in a rain storm that switches to hail halfway through is a difficult thing to process when you’re trying to keep track of strikes and balls.

The shivering alone is distracting: the cold numbness that creeps through my fingers makes it hard to clutch a pencil and writing with thick gloves leads to broken leads and polite, under-the-breath curses.

The nice thing about being a fan is that if you get uncomfortable, you can leave at any time (though most true fans would rather die than do that). I can’t: I gotta stick around to make sure I get all the information. It’s my job and I love my job so I can’t complain too much. But it’s definitely one of the parts I like the least about the job.

And besides, all my own personal complaints have to go out the window when I see the kids out there playing, the coaches out there coaching and the umps making the tough calls. The kids are dressed way too light, but they go out, don’t complain, sit in the dugout and blow on their hands and buckle down to get things done.

Sure, many of these players would rather be playing the warm hot sun. Many of them would probably rather be sitting at home watching TV or surfing the net. But there they stand out on the field, suffering in the rain without complain or worry, just laughing and enjoying the game that many of them will never play against past high school.

It’s then when all my simple minded complaints sort of fade away as I realize how little my personal comfort matters (in general).

All of these lessons hit me hard when I went to the Alcona and Whittemore-Prescott baseball game on Wednesday. The first game was quite warm and the teams were quite good: Cody Franklin and Tyler Janish were excellent pitchers backed up by solid defenders. Solid hitting from Alcona helped it snatch a 2-0 win.

So far, so good. The cold wasn’t so bad.

Then the hail came and it bit into me like a switchblade. I wore my spring jacket (as it was, you know, spring) and it was quickly soaked with water. My pad of paper served as a barrier to my scoring sheets but these still got wet anyways.

The second game slowed down as the wet ball and field began interfering with the game. Normally reliable pitchers saw the wet ball fly out of their grip and past the pitcher. The ball thudded against the bat heavily and flew rather unreliably in odd directions.

What struck me the most about the game (beyond my own miserable condition) was the fact that the players kept smiling and laughing on the field. I could see the coaches cracking wise with the ump or with themselves without a care in the world.

As my pants became soaked and the wind blew up my pant legs, I grew more and more despondent at the situation. I just couldn’t keep the same joy and excitement that the players had during the whole ordeal.

Frankly, it was kind of hard to focus on the game as I was shaking and coughing too hard to think, but I brooded for four innings until the game was finally suspended with the Tigers up 6-1.

As soon as the final out was called, I ran quickly to the Alcona dugout to talk to coach Terry Franklin. I hadn’t felt so drenched, cold and miserable in a long time. I held no anger towards the teams or anything, but I really just wanted to get it over with so I could get into my car, turn on the heat and start the long drive back to Alpena.

As I stood in the corner and tried to stay out of the way of everybody, one of the players (Jared Steiner) came up to me and shook my hand and said “Thanks for sticking around to cover us!” as sincerely as I’ve ever heard a teenager say anything.

Later, coach Franklin also shook my hand and thanked me for my patience. He then called in the stats for the second game in case I my papers had gotten too wet to read (and they had).

Neither of them had to say or do those things for me, but the fact that they did made me feel like suffering through the rain was worth the trouble.

Here’s to hoping it warms up soon and that we get the chance to see some uninterrupted, high energy exciting baseball games. I hope to see you there.