Weather forces schools to change
Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Foundation for bleachers have been laid at Mel Parker Field. However, rain delays has forced the re-opening of the field until after spring break in April.
With one of the wettest times in recent years, high school athletic directors have had to make adjustments to its spring sports schedules.
If Madera athletic director John Fernandez or Madera South athletic director Andrea Devine only had to worry about is the weather affecting a few games, they would take it every time.
However, both athletic directors have had to make adjustments, not only to game schedules, but to practice schedules because of the amount of rain Madera has gotten over the past month.
“Our baseball field is pretty much a swamp,” Devine said. “Our baseball fields aren’t draining. It’s swampy and not playable.”
Devine did add that the weather has given the softball team problems, but those fields seem to be draining well.
However, it’s the hard pan underneath the baseball fields that are giving Madera South teams a problem.
“We can’t even get a lawn mower in there without sinking,” Devine said. “They’ve had to hand mow the outfield because they can’t get a mower there without it getting stuck. Our lower-level baseball fields are just as swampy as our varsity field. At least Madera has lower-level fields that are playable.”
Head coach Bobby Waits and the rest of his staff has had to alter practices to be able to get as much done on any patch of dry field they can find.
“We’re doing a lot of batting practice,” Devine said. “They are doing a lot of cage work because they, literally, don’t have any fields to play on.”
Because of the weather, Devine revised the baseball schedule moving the Stallions’ first home game from last week to Feb. 28.
“Until then, we are on the road,” she said. “We purposely made some away games to give our field a break from the rain. We’re hoping by the 28th, we can have our first home game.”
Unlike Devine, Fernandez said his fields are draining, however that’s not the problem. Last April, during a wind storm, a telephone pole fell on the Mel Parker Field backstop and bleachers. This resulted in the entire backstop to be rebuilt, in addition to adding permanent seating with new dugouts.
Construction takes time and with the weather, that time gets delayed and the Coyotes, although practicing on the field, won’t be able to play in Mel Parker Field until at least after spring break.
“That’s our plan is to be ready by after spring break,” Fernandez said. “We’ve constructed our schedule to be road dogs. We’ve been fortunate for other teams and Fresno City College to open their fields for us. With the district support, they see the additional costs and will help us with those costs to play at Fresno City. We knew there was going to be a delay in the field. Coach Andy Underwood and I looked at the schedule extensively and tried to come up with a solution, even with Madera South helping out, as well.”
However, there could be a snag with rain starting up again at the end of this week and into next week.
“That’s what concerns me,” Devine said. “We have Madera coming in March 2. If our field is not playable, like it is today, it’s going to cause another delay for them and us because we’re going to have another road game and another location to play.”
“All the schools have been very accommodating with us,” Fernandez said. “How much more rain are we going to get? We’re in the same boat as everybody else. They are dealing with the same issues we are with the weather.”
However, with last week’s respite and some sunshine poking through, Fernandez saw some progress on the backstop.
“This weather does give us some delay,” he said. “We finally got our first foundation of the bleachers in. We still have a field. We’ve been able to do a lot of things in the outfield. We’re able do some game management situations in left field. We’re using the cages and the covered bullpen area. That’s a huge benefit because our pitchers and catchers are able to get their work in.”
Even the Coyote softball team is having to adjust its practice plan. Part of the reason is weather and another part is Fernandez worked to get the infield topsoil replaced.
“We removed four inches of existing soil, which was like clay,” he said. “We had a great company come in to work on the field. The only hard part is, because of the weather, they can’t get their machine on the field to put the top layer in. They are just waiting for the field to dry out as much as we can. They wanted to try to get it finished by last weekend, but the last weather system didn’t allow that.”
Although Madera’s first home game isn’t until March 14, Fernandez still feels the pressure to get the field ready as soon as possible.
“There are still a lot of things we need to do before the field is ready to play on like putting in the bases, pitching rubber, home plate and resetting the sprinklers,” he said. “The new sod is growing, but there is a layer that is bare and it’s growing in. Coach Judy Shaubach goes down to our lower-level fields to get the workout they need to do to get ready for the season.”
The irony to the situation is that during the rains in January and this month, Madera’s Lee DaSilva Field in Memorial Stadium was one of the few fields that were playable for soccer.
“For soccer, we were the only location where everyone was guaranteed to play,” Devine said.