Athletic Directors Dealing With Horrible April Weather

April 28, 2011 /

BUTLER COUNTY — Mother Nature nearly threw another no-hitter Wednesday, which would have been her seventh of the month.

The old lady hurled enough rain to wash out every area game on the schedule but one, and there have been plenty of other afternoons when only a handful of contests have been played.

“It’s gotten beyond frustrating,” Hamilton High School Athletic Director Mike Dellapina said. “Everybody says April showers bring May flowers, but the only thing April showers bring athletic directors are a lot of headaches.”

When the rain comes early and often as was the case Wednesday, the decision to cancel games is an easy one. But most days, the process can be tricky.

Call it too late and the visiting team, umpires and players’ parents are already en route, and none are too pleased when they arrive and find the game canceled. But call it too early, and the conditions and/or forecast can change, leaving a playable field sitting idle.

“I made a decision to cancel a softball game April 16 because of the radar and forecast of impending heavy rain,” New Miami coach Kevin Dunnette said. “Needless to say, it rained all over the area, but not in New Miami. The girls on the team still tease me about that decision.”

Making the right decision and doing so in a timely manner is only the beginning of the problems for most athletic directors. The more challenging part is finding a makeup date that works for both teams.

“It’s really starting to become a juggling act because we’re running out of days before the postseason,” Middletown Athletic Director Gary Lebo said. “We’ve got 10 schools in our (Greater Miami Conference), and every single one of them is trying to find slots to make up their games.”

The baseball and softball sectional tournaments begin May 9, which is just 11 days away. Some area teams still have as many as eight league games left to play.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to play these games,” Dellapina said. “There have even been discussions about playing games on Sunday.”

And if you think athletic directors are annoyed, imagine how the coaches feel.

“It’s frustrating, but what can you do,” said Badin baseball coach Rick Kunkel, whose team hasn’t played a game since April 15, a span of 13 days.

“It’s just like starting over,” Kunkel added. “The kids haven’t seen live pitching, everyone’s timing is off, and they’re getting frustrated and slap happy working out in the gym every day.”

The Rams have played just 11 games all year, winning nine of them. By this date last year, they had already played 20. Middletown has played just 13, compared to 22 by this time in 2010.

Carlisle has been fortunate enough to play 16, but that’s only because the Indians opened the season in March with five games in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Saturday the Indians went through 35 bags of Field Dry to try to get their field playable for the annual Sam Franks Classic. They got in one game and four innings of another before rain washed out the rest of the event and all of their hard work.

“It’s disappointing,” Carlisle coach Chris Hawkins said. “We try to take care of the field as much as we can to get it ready to play, but some days there’s just nothing you can do.

“We try to hit indoors as much as we can on the days we can’t play, but it sure has been stressful on the coaches’ arms,” Hawkins added. “It’s been a frustrating month.”

Already the rainiest April in Greater Cincinnati annals, Wednesday’s rain was expected to break the record for any month.

It’s easy to see why players, coaches and athletic directors are so frustrated. But it’s the umpires who may be getting the worst of it.

Many umpires work regular day jobs that they leave early in order to get to the fields in time for games. If they get there and it’s rained out, they’re missing out on money on both ends.

“I’ve been lucky to get one game in per week,” said Roger Fox, who umpires both baseball and softball. “And on days when I do get one in, sometimes I don’t even know where I’m going until 2 or 2:30 because we’re getting moved around due to other games being rained out.

“It has to be a nightmare for the assigners,” Fox added. “I don’t know how Kevin (Niemoeller, the Butler County Umpires Association assigner) gets it done.”

This will be a spring season people will be talking about for years, but it won’t be because of any great pitching performances or majestic home runs. It will be remembered as the year everyone lost.

“That’s what’s really unfortunate, that the kids don’t get to play the games,” Lebo said. “It’s already a short season, and they work extremely hard to prepare themselves for the season just like everyone else.”

Even more disappointing is the fact that it’s a centuries old problem that can’t be solved.

“My father (John) was the executive secretary of the old Hamilton County Suburban League, so I heard all about spring sports and weather when I was growing up,” Dunnette said. “Sometimes no matter which way you go, you can’t win. You can’t beat Mother Nature.”

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