Georgia weather isn't really known for its consistency or its beauty, at least not in the winter. Spring sports are in full swing, but the spring weather hasn't arrived just yet. Still, track, soccer and baseball athletes are playing as well as they can and as much as they can in the weather they're facing.
The month of February and the early days of March have been marked by rain, sleet and snow (maybe just a little) forcing the spring sports inside for practices and resulting in a number of postponed/cancelled games.
"It's unreal. I've never seen anything like this," Jason Borcherding, Heritage head baseball coach, said of his five years on the job.
After Heritage soccer played Eastside on a blisteringly cold night, Patriots head coach Brandon Stewart said, "It's extremely hard to kick a ball when your feet are frozen."
In baseball, Borcherding and his players have had to hold practices inside their fieldhouse, just to keep players ready for games.
"We're able to get quality practices out of what we're doing. The kids don't like it, but from a work standpoint we're still able to get our work in," Borcherding said.
"My pitchers get their work in. We throw 10 sessions against live hitters to make sure that they stay on their pitching rotation. It's good for our hitters because they have the opportunity to see live pitching on a regular basis, and it's good for our pitchers because they get to see live hitters and throw against live hitters."
Jonathan Brewer, Rockdale County head baseball coach, shares Borcherding's sentiment. The Bulldogs have had to postpone nine games total, five for JV and four for varsity.
"What that effectively does is it makes us push back dates. It makes us play four games in a week. It kills our pitching on top of that," Brewer said. ‘We're having to play four nights in a row. That's not good on anyone's pitching. No one in high school has enough pitching to play four games in a row."
"For example, it rained out here two days ago. Well we hadn't been able to touch the field in two days to get any field practice. To be more specific, we've actually only been on the baseball field two times since Winter Break," Brewer added. "So in the last three weeks, we've been on the field two times for baseball practice. What we do on the other days, which is about 95 percent of the time so far this year, is we just stand out on the pavement and swing and hit plastic balls - soft toss and tee work."
The Bulldogs have a young team this season, and the lack of practice has affected their play. Brewer says in six games they've made 33 errors. When you have a young team, those players need as many reps as they can get to get better, and the weather hasn't allowed anyone that opportunity.
"I'm sure that they get tired of being inside and being in the cage and doing the same thing," Borcherding said. "Unfortunately, we're just not able to get on the field with the amount of water that we've been getting. And it doesn't look like it's going to break."
Borcherding, who grew up in Cincinnati, is used to this kind of weather. He says when he was young they used to practice in the hallway.
"You miss the game action, the ability to be able to be in situations on the field right now because of the inability to be able to get on the dirt," Borcherding said. "We don't miss much from a pitching and hitting aspect like I said because of how we structure our practices and the way that we do things."
"What it does put you behind in is game situations," Borcherding added. "Defending first and third situations, defending bunt defenses. We still do a lot of that same stuff in the gym as well, but you can't replicate game type tempo in the gym."
The lack of practices and game action looks like it may seep into region play, which is likely a concern for coaches.
"It's hard to play Saturday and then come back and play next Friday and then somewhere in between that we got four days where we can't even practice because it's too cold or snow or rain or school's out or whatever," Bruce Evans, Eastside head baseball coach, said.
Region play is on the horizon and the non-region games, which don't matter much anyway, have even less significance for coaches now that so many games have been cancelled.
"The kids have worked hard and they've earned [the chance] to play 26 games in a season," Brewer said. "You also have to understand that the real season starts when region play starts, and you can't put your kids in a bad spot by playing four games a week on top of the three for region play each week."
In a recent game, Borcherding says he played all of his guys and pitched a different guy every inning just to get them some experience. He says he treated the game like a scrimmage.
"At this point right now I'm not concerned about non-region games," Borcherding said. "I'm concerned about getting my guys innings and opportunities to be able to play and getting ready for region play."
None of the coaches want to waste their pitching on non-region games or wear out their pitchers arms. Brewer believes that he likely won't makeup the non-region games, but if he does he could possibly play them on Saturdays to get his guys some good experience.
The weather next week? The forecast says it's supposed to rain for at least four days straight.