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This was the scene at Knute Nelson Field last Friday as more than two feet of snow was still waiting to melt around home plate and up the first and third-base lines. Alexandria baseball coach Russ Hinrichs said he worries the field won't be playable until at least May if something drastic doesn't happen within the next couple weeks. (Eric Morken, Echo Press)

Warm weather, where are you? Spring sports on hold

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Cardinals Alexandria, 56308
Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

The players and coaches who basked in the sun as winter changed straight to summer last year during a time usually designated for spring are paying for it right now.

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Perhaps we should have seen this coming as Minnesotans. Seventy degree days in March? That was obviously an anomaly. But would a few straight days of low 50s in early April really be too much to ask for?

"I guess when we had a spring like last year, you get spoiled and expect it to be that way every year," Osakis baseball coach Shad Schmidt said. "But then, this is the reality of playing baseball in Minnesota."

So it is, but winter is definitely holding on for dear life this year. Alexandria boys' golf coach Rick Larson has been coaching for more than 20 seasons and said he has never seen anything like this.

"We have had some other years of late starts," he said last Friday. "But even then we were usually outside within the first two weeks; maybe not on the course, but on the range. This year, we may not get on the range until at least the middle of next week, three and a half weeks into our season."

Even that might be pushing it. The 10-day forecast left no guarantees. The highs this week called for temperatures in the upper 30s, which means players and coaches who were antsy to get outside two weeks ago will likely still have to show some patience.

Every program is affected a little differently. The Alexandria tennis team battled chilly conditions but got its season started with a 6-1 win in Monticello last Thursday. Track teams are also able to get in some indoor meets to get warmed up for the outdoor season.

Golfers? They have to be a little creative. Alexandria hasn't hit at the range, but the Cardinals have been able to come close to simulating the real thing at Scott Dirck's Golf Academy at Geneva. Larson called it the saving grace in an otherwise miserable spring.

"It may not be the same as hitting off grass on the course," he said, "but it is as close as you can get to real swings. The adjustment to hitting outdoors will be much smoother and quicker because of Scott's generosity."

As for when his players will actually be able to hit outdoors, that's still anyone's guess. The forecast for last night said we are probably waking up to a fresh coat of snow this morning. That means the grind goes on, and it's becoming all the more frustrating for everyone.

"I think for me this year, it's a little more frustrating just because I want to see what this team can do," Schmidt said of an Osakis team he has high expectations for. "It's like waiting to open your Christmas presents as a kid when you're excited with anticipation and you have to wait."

The Silverstreaks didn't think they had to wait much longer. Both the Osakis baseball and softball teams had games scheduled in Royalton on Monday before they were postponed at the last minute. Getting on the field for a game will be a start, but it might be too much for coaches to expect a fine-tuned product early on.

"I think it does affect practice in the sense that it does not fully get the guys ready until they can actually get some time outside," Schmidt said. "Everyone needs to see real fly balls off a bat, real ground balls on a field and real pitching off a mound to a batter."

Alexandria baseball coach Russ Hinrichs said he worries the Cardinals won't be able to host a home game until May. Knute Nelson Field was covered with more than two feet of snow in places last Friday. The Cardinals have four home dates scheduled in April, with two of those being doubleheaders. As of right now, all could be in jeopardy.

"We're hanging in there," Hinrichs said. "If we have to go much longer, it's going to get tough, though."

Alexandria has been limited to doing situational stuff and individual workouts inside. Both the Cardinals baseball and softball programs have gotten some practice on turf at the Runestone Community Center, which has a rink set up for indoor soccer.

That's as close to getting outside as a lot of teams have gotten this spring. Once they do get outdoors, they better brace themselves for a wild month of May. There is a small window of time to make up all the games that are lost this April. It's not ideal, but such is life for spring sports in Minnesota this year.

"We could play 20 games in 25 [school] days, and then we'll have to play Saturdays I'm sure," Hinrichs said. "And that doesn't include rainouts we have. It's going to be interesting, and it's going to be a sprint to the finish. That's spring baseball in Minnesota."

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