, Newburyport, MA

March 19, 2013

The start of spring before the storm

Sports season begins with threat of snow

By Dan Guttenplan
Sports Editor

---- — The start of the spring sports season in New England often brings with it plenty of opportunities for field maintenance. Many teams took the field with rakes and shovels yesterday, and the work is expected to continue throughout the week.

The Newburyport baseball team had its annual preseason field maintenance on Saturday, and a collection of coaches, players and parents raked 30 bags of leaves before rolling and dragging the field.

“We have some snow in right field, but it’s probably the best shape the field has been in for quite a few years,” Newburyport coach Steve Malenfant said. “We took out all sorts of leaves. There is nothing we didn’t get done.”

That proved to be helpful yesterday when all sports teams opened spring practices, although the Newburyport baseball might be one of many sports teams getting back to work on field maintenance later this week with a possible snow storm and/or rain in the forecast.

Amesbury tennis coach Brett Manoloff said his plans for early-season conditioning may include snow-shoveling later this week.

“If we don’t have school (today), we’ll be back practicing (tomorrow),” Manoloff said. “That will primarily consist of shoveling our courts.”

Pentucket tennis coach Christian Langlois planned ahead, scheduling all of his team’s opening-week practices at indoor courts throughout the region. His team practiced at Newburyport Racquet Club yesterday, getting a leg up on the tennis teams that could only work on conditioning in the cold weather.

“It will definitely help a lot,” Langlois said of the indoor practices. “If you look at other sports, they’re not on their normal fields or courts this week. They’re stuck in gyms doing whatever they can. I’m glad we can do it. All of our parents have been nice about chipping in a little bit each day so we can use the racquet clubs.”

If there is a particular type of athlete that is typically unaffected by adverse weather conditions, it is the distance runner. These athletes often have goals in terms of weekly training volume, and snow or rain does not prevent them from logging these miles outside rather than on a treadmill.

Triton track coach Joe Colbert said his distance runners took to the streets of Byfield yesterday afternoon on a 40-degree afternoon.

“Some of our runners were outside, some were inside,” Colbert said. “Distance goes out in all conditions.”

Colbert estimated that 75 percent of his outdoor athletes are carry-overs from the indoor track season. That continuity allows him to pick up the program where he left off last month rather than starting from scratch after the winter season.

“Those who did track in the winter are way ahead than those who didn’t,” Colbert said. “The kids that did it in the winter, they pick up where they left off. The kids who weren’t with us have to get caught up to speed. If they were playing basketball, then they’re in pretty good shape, and they can get right into it.”

The official competitions begin for most sports teams in the first week of April. For sports like baseball and softball that require manicured fields, the preseason goes into the second week of April. The Newburyport baseball team opens April 11, but first, the Clippers will play 10 preseason games.

“I wanted to get in as many scrimmages as possible to find out exactly how good our younger kids are,” Malenfant said. “We have a good core of seniors coming back, but we’ll be missing a solid pitcher in (2012 graduate Brett Fontaine). I scheduled about four to six more scrimmages than normal, and I just hope we can get them in.”