With temperatures still in the mid 40s and a cold wind blowing, it seems a long way from summer.
But the summer sports season will begin today when the Bemidji Mudcats launch a 38-game regular season schedule today with a double header at Nimrod, meeting that team at 2:30 and Midway at 5.
The Cats are coming off a strong 26-7 campaign in 20o8, reaching the state Class B tournament once again before bowing to Maple Lake 3-0.
Included in the year were an Arrowhead League title and Region 6B championship.
Owner-manager Scott Seaton is back to head the program once again.
In his second decade at the helm, Seaton has brought an era of outstanding stability to a program which usually faced a heavy turnover each summer.
He fielded his youngest team in history last summer with seven Bemidji High graduates from the 2007 and 2008 teams.
That contingent is back intact this year with an added year of experience ready to pick up where it left off last summer
In all, 18 of last year's 20 players return. Gone are B.J. Martinka along with Shawn Ross who has retired. The Duluth resident was only able to play occasionally the past few summers.
Back are all nine pitchers who saw duty last year headed by Tyler Norland (11-0), Paul Fenner (7-3) and Doug Peterson (4-1). Peterson hurled this spring at Northland Community College.
Also back are Dan Bauer, Matt Stasch, Nate Heim, Joe Andersen, Aaron Schmitz and Seaton who saw occasional duty, Stasch getting in the most innings 17 2-3, almost all in relief roles.
The staff had a 2.81 earned run average in 2008, excellent figures, with 213 strikeouts and 104 walks.
Joining the mound crew are Neil Huewe, Aaron Schmitz, Dan Seaberg, Tony Klaers, Ryan Johnson. Greg Skerik, John Grindeland, Phil Ronnebaum and Jeff Schaper.
New to this year's team are Dan Nolan. Moving up from the Bemidji Blue Ox, Andrew Hengel, who played with the American Legion last summer, and BSU's Ryan Sander.
Klaers led last year's team at the plate with a .458 average while Ronnebaum hit. 382, Grindeland .379. Fenner .375, Anderson .372. Bauer .368, Peterson .372, Seaberg, .353, Schaper .317, Norland .312 and Johnson .302.
Only 70 of the 202 hits went for extra bases with just seven home runs and five triples.
Klaers was the rbi leader with 28 and hits with 33. The Cats stole only 18 bases all year, eight by Bauer.
There will two changes in the summer. The Arrowhead has expanded to five teams this year with the addition of Nashwauk. The Colts won the Class C Itasca League title and playoffs last year. The team is basically the old Marble Mallards which disbanded two years ago after a long stretch in the Arrowhead.
They join Bemidji, Duluth, Grand Rapids and Hibbing which will play a 16 game league slate equally split home and away.
Most of the annual opponents are back.
New to the region is Blaine, swelling those ranks to six. The top two finishers will advance to the state which, again will be a single elimination in the first two rounds.
Seaton hopes to add Ada to the slate and possibly pick up a second trip to the Twin Cities.
The Cats face St. Francis and Shakopee May 29-30 in their first trip.
The region playoffs will be at Hibbing this year with the state on three successive weekends at Arlington and Gaylord.
The first home game will be with the Blue Ox May 22.
May 9 at Nimrod
May 9 vs. Midway at Nimrod
May 16 vs. Verndale at Wadena
May 16 at Wadena
May 20 at Nashwauk *
May 22 Blue Ox 7:30
May 23 St. Paul Mudhens (2) 11:00
May 29 at St .Francis
May 30 at Shakopee
June 5 at Brainerd Bees
June 6 at Ft. Ripley
June 6 vs. Henderson at Ft. Ripley
June 7 at Nisswa
June 9 Nashwauk * 7:30
June 12 Rosco Tournament
June 13 Rosco Tournament
June 14 Rosco Tournament
June 19 Nimrod Tourney
June 20 Nimrod Tourney
June 21 Nimrod Tourney
June 23 at Nashwauk *
June 25 at Grand Rapids *
June 28 at Duluth (2) *
July 1 Grand Rapids * 7:30
July 3 Blue Ox 6:30
July 8 Grand Rapids * 7;30
July 11 Duluth (2) * 1:00
July 12 at Hibbing * (2)
July 14 Brainerd Braves 8:00
July 19 Hibbing (2) * 1:00
July 21 Nisswa 7:30
July 22 Brainerd Bees 7:30
July 24 Nashwauk * 7:30
July 27 at Grand Rapids
Aug. 6-9 Region 6B playoffs, Hibbing
Aug.15 Region 6B seeding game, TBA
Aug. 20-23 State, Arlington, Gaylord
Aug. 28-30 State, Arlington, Gaylord
Sept, 4-6 State, Arlington, Gaylord
* Arrowhead League games
Additional games to be added with Ada and Brainerd Braves