Another cold day was not going to keep the Amity baseball team inside. As the temperature barely crept above 30 degrees with wind gusts well over 20 miles per hour on March 26, Spartans coach Sal Coppola led his defending Class LL champions back on the field.
At least it wasn’t raining.
“If you stay inside and then it rains next week, you’re on the field even less,” Coppola said. “I think if its dry out and cold, you (still) got to get out there.”
Getting out there has historically been an issue for area teams during the preseason due to cold, windy or rainy weather. Teams in the state have to settle for practices in gyms or no practices at all.
Baseball teams only have 15 days to get ready for the grind of a 20-game regular season that spans less than two months. Getting prepared for the season inside of a gym is just part of playing baseball in New England, according to Xavier coach Rich Magner.
“It’s hard to feel like the season is a week and a half away when you’re inside hitting off a tee or fielding ground balls off a carpet,” Magner said.
He said he had to keep his team inside early in the preseason due to the location of Palmer Field in Middletown, where the Falcons play.
“Our field historically hasn’t been good,” he said. “Because it’s on the bottom of a big hill.”
Practice isn’t enough hitters and pitchers to get their timing right for the season. Scrimmages are an important part of getting everybody on the same page.
Teams like Amity, Xavier and Hand play at least seven scrimmages during the 15-day spring training period.
“You need to have those live at-bats and the pitchers need to see live hitters,” Hand coach Travis LaPointe said. “The toughest part of it is when you start losing scrimmages due to the weather.”
Hand went 10-12 last season. With five starters back, the Tigers are optimistic about this season. That energy and hyper–focus, a term LaPointe coined last season, has helped them through spring training.
The coach said his team would rather get its work in outside, but even in a gym his Tigers bring it. He said keeping the team motivated while practicing inside is all about coaching.
“If you can set up a pretty good routine where everybody knows their objective, you keep guys moving you set high expectations, you tend to get a good workout in,” LaPointe said.
However, there’s no substitute for getting outside and getting in a scrimmage. Xavier scheduled seven and Magner said even coaches benefit from the preseason.
“(Baseball) is a hard game to practice,” he said. “It’s a game you’ve got to play and make adjustments as you go. It’s pretty hard to simulate someone else’s pitching.”
And the weather doesn’t warm up after the season starts. The average high temperature in April is 57 degrees with the low at 37. Rain is also an issue, as May tends to be the wettest month of the year and last season rain cancelled the Southern Connecticut Conference tournament’s semifinals and final for the first time in conference history.
Coppola said as his team battles the elements, as well as tough competition in the SCC, he wants the Spartans to peak after the midseason point.
“That is telling what type of team you’re going to have in the postseason,” Coppola said. “Our guys can’t wait to get outside,” Copolla said. “Even when it’s cold.”